Skip to main content

Full text of "If - Worlds Of Science Fiction v06n03 [Quinn] (Apr 1956) (AKv1.0)"

See other formats


ORLDS OF 



# 



SCIENCE FIC 



If 




,956t 35 CENTS 






1 

ATOMIC BOMBER — These giant needle-nosed delta wing A-bombers, atom- 
powered aircraft of the future, are shown in combat practice eleven miles 
above the earth's surface. The "attacking" craft is a supersonic jet inter- 
ceptor. These great ships will likely be powered by air flowing through ducts 
in their wings. Air will be expanded and ejected through rear jet nozzles at 
terrific speed by means of intense heat from atomic reactor buried in heavy 
shielding between wings. Despite shielding, crew in far-off nose will have 
perhaps 36 flight hours without radiation injury. Such aircraft will be first 
steps to adequate power for space flight. (Drawing by Mel Hunter) 



ir 



WORLDS of SCIENCE FICTION 

APRIL 1956 
All Stories New and Complete 

Editor: JAMES L. QUINN 

Assist. Editors: EVE WULFF, ROBERT W. GREENE 

Art Editor: MEL HUNTER 



fiiMjiijjiiiiiiiiiijjuijiimiiiiHiiiiUMUiiiimiiiiiiiiJumiiiuiiiiiiiuiiuiiiiiimuiimiinmuiiiinimimuiiuiuiiiiiniimiuiiiuiiiuHiiiuiiuiiit^ 

I 1 

I NOVELETTES | 

I HUMAN ERROR by Raymond F. Jones 4 | 

I ATOM DRIVE by Charles Fontenay 56 | 

1 CHROME PASTURES by Robert F. Young 72 | 

I SHORT STORIES J 

1 THE EXECUTIONER by Frank Riley 32 | 

I LIFE HUTCH by Harlan Ellison 46 | 

I LOVE STORY by Irving E. Cox, Jr. 98 | 

II 

FEATURES | 

I THE ODD GENRE by Forrest J. Ackerman 2 | 

I WHAT IS YOUR SCIENCE I.Q.? 113 | 

I SCIENCE BRIEFS 115 | 

I HUE AND CRY 117 | 

I COVER: I 

I By Kelly Freas, from "The Executioner" 1 

5 E. 

IF is published bi-monthly by Quinn Publishing Company, Inc. Volume 6, No. 3. 
Copyright 1956 by Quinn Publishing Co., Inc. Office of publication, 8 Lord Street, 
Buffalo, New York. Entered as Second Class Matter at Post Office, Buffalo, New 
York. Subscription $3.50 for 12 issues in U.S. and Possessions; Canada $4 for 12 
issues; elsewhere $4.50. Allow four weeks for change of address. All stories appear- 
ing in this magazine are fiction; any similarity to actual persons is coincidental. 
Not responsible for unsolicited artwork or manuscripts. 35c a copy. Printed in U.S.A. 

EDITORIAL AND BUSINESS OFFICES, KINGSTON, NEW YORK 

Next issue on sale April I2th 



THE 




genre 



iiiiiuiiyiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiuiiiii 



I ENJOYED MYSELF recently at a 
local (Los Angeles) Auto Show, 
particularly observing the Gars of 
the Future, the fibreglas sabres with 
the fifth wheel for parking and 
other strictly-from-sci-fi embellish- 
ments, like the built-in hi-fi set, tele- 
phone, and even mini-TV. With 
the new emphasis on safety features, 
Wendayne and I had been talking 
at dinner, just before going to the 
exhibit, about an idea of an inven- 
tor friend of ours, namely wrap- 
around bumpers protecting the side 
of a car as well as the front; and 
when we arrived at the show, lo! 
what did we see but the demonstra- 
tion of just such side-bumpers. And 
then there was the $62,000 gold- 
plated Cadillac — very far in my fu- 
ture. 

After which I went out to the 
parking lot and kicked my new 
Oldsmobile: so it had power steer- 
ing, power braking, power windows, 
power windshield wiping, power 
radio antenna, power horn and 
power cigaret lighter, what good 
was the damn old thing? — it didn't 



even have power handkerchief. 
And long noses run in my family. 

THE CONQUEST OF SPEECH: 

Consider the plight of poor Walter 
Ernsting, earnest German sci-fi fan. 
A one hundred Deutschmark fine 
(about $25 in our money) was 
levied against him for defending 
George Pal's "Conquest of Space" 
against derogatory criticism in one 
of the leading German newspapers. 
Ernsting, who is editor of the Ger- 
man s.f. fortnightly, Utopia, was 
thrilled by the picture, which he 
saw twice at once, but incensed by 
a review which he considered ignor- 
ant, ill-informed, unfair, usw. 
(that's German for etc). So he 
wrote a protest to the paper — and 
was promptly taken to court for it! 
Sued and made to pay for "insult- 
ing the editor". 

It was only last year that we "fit 
the battle" — the Battle of Bonn — to 
save science fiction in Germany. 
Most of you won't have been aware 
that there was even any controversy 
over there, but a branch of the Ba- 
varian Government lit a Bonn-fire 
under science fiction that threat- 
ened for awhile to incinerate the 
whole subject. The same ardent de- 
fender of s.f., Walter Ernsting, 
made a day's journey, at his own 
expense, to the seat of Government 
to represent and defend the maga- 
zine he edits, Utopia, from charges 
of "atom mongering", glorifying 
nuclear warfare and other thoughts 
farthest from the peace-loving 
mind of long-standing scientific- 
tionist Ernsting who had dreamed 
of introducing modern science fic- 
tion to his countrymen even while 



a prisoner of the Russians. An ap- 
peal to America for moral support 
was answered by airgraphs and 
cables of protest from the Los An- 
geles Science Fantasy Society, the 
international Fantasy Foundation, 
the League for Better Science Fic- 
tion (New York), and concerned 
individuals throughout the country. 
A 2000 word "Open Letter" was 
composed, translated into German, 
professionally printed and distrib- 
uted prior to the hearing to the 
District Attorney and the panel of 
twelve (lawyer, educator, minister, 
psychologist, author, businessman, 
etc) who investigated the case. In 
answer to the charge that some of 
the stories were "too realistic and 
horrible in their description? of 
weapons of the future", I con- 
tended : 

There are many great writers ex- 
pressing great philosophies, bom- 
barding the human brain with 
thoughts and ideals, ways and 
means of achieving the Utopian civ- 
ilization for which all sane men 
yearn. If sometimes they dip their 
pens in acid and blood and paint 
pain-pictures of ghastly atomic hor- 
ror, it is to crystalize for their per- 
haps less imaginative brethren the 
disastrous results of unholy ambi- 
tion, twisted reasoning, misapplied 
science. For every bomb that drops 
in science fiction, an explosion takes 
place in the mind of the reader that 
blows away misconception. For 
every tower of lies ihat is toppled, 
a skyscraper of truth is erected. Bet- 
ter bitten by a snake on paper than 
in reality! And if we are shown the 
snake on paper, we learn to recog- 
nize and avoid it in reality. 



If 8 of the 12 individuals judg- 
ing the merits of science fiction and 
the issues of the magazine in ques- 
tion had turned thumbs down, it 
would virtually have been the end 
of the modern s.f. experiment in 
Germany. Which would have been 
not only tragic but downright ridic- 
ulous, considering what Germany 
has contributed to the genre via 
Willy Ley, Fritz Lang, Curt Siod- 
mak. Otto Willi Gail, Thea von 
Harbou, Heinz Haber, Rick Strauss 
and Frank R. Paul. (Incidentally, 
to Frank Rudolph Paul, my favorite 
illustrator and the grand old dean 
of stf artists, my love, respects and 
congratulations to you, sir, on turn- 
ing 70. May your enchanted brush 
be with us yet when you are 100.) 

But science fiction got a clean 
slate at L' Affaire Bonn: the Bonn- 
shell exploded, and out of the 
smoke and flame came a 100% ex- 
oneration for science fiction. 

The Science Fiction Club 
Deutschland has been formed, has 
over 150 corresponding members, a 
lending library, and a society organ, 
ANDROmeda. 

WHEN 1 WAS enroute to the 13th 
World S.F. Convention I stopped 
off in Chicago and visited the of- 
fices of Playboy, the sophisticated 
men's magazine that features a lot 
of slick sci-fi, and made the ac- 
quaintance of the editor, Ray Rus- 
sell. He turned out to be a dyed- 
in-the-Wells fan from 'way back 
when Ray Bradbury was in romp- 
ers, and spent an afternoon remi- 
niscing with me about the Good 
Old Days of Eando (Earl and 
(Continued on page 112) 




W-' 



Illustrated by Paul Orban 



HUMAN 



BY RAYMOND F. JONES 



The government was spending a billion dollars to convince 



the human race that men ought to be ashamed to be 



men — instead of errorless, cybernetics machines. But they 



forgot that an errorless manris a dead man . . . 



DURING ITS three years' exist- 
ence, the first Wheel was prob- 
ably the subject of more amateur 
astronomical observations than any 
other single object in the heavens. 
Over three hundred reports came 
in when a call was issued for wit- 
nesses to the accident that destroyed 
the space station. 

It was fortunately on the night 
side of Earth at the time, and in a 
position of bright illumination by 
the sun. Two of the observers had 
movie cameras attached to their 



ten-inch mirrors. The film in one of 
these was inadequate, but the other 
carried a complete record of the in- 
cident from the moment of the 
Griseda's first approach, through 
the pilot's fumbling attempt to cor- 
rect course, and the final collision. 
The scene was lost for a few sec- 
onds as the wreckage drifted out of 
the field. The observer had been 
watching through a small pilot 
scope, however, and had wits 
enough to pan by hand so that he 
got most of the remaining fall that 



ERROR 



was visible above his horizon as the 
locked remnants of the Wheel and 
the Griseda began their slow, spiral 
course to Earth. 

By the time this scene was fin- 
ished, word of the disaster was al- 
ready flashing to Government cen- 
ters. Joe McCauley, radio operator 
aboard the Wheel, had been talk- 
ing with Ed Harris on the Griseda. 
As a matter of routine, all their con- 
versation was taped, and some of 
this was recovered from the crash 
and played back at the investiga- 
tion. 

" — and get this," Ed was saying, 
"my kid had his fifth birthday just 
last week, and I've got him work- 
ing through quadratic equations al- 
ready. You've got to go some to 
beat that one." 

"Doesn't mean a thing," said Joe. 
"You know how these infant brain 
boxes burn out. Better take him 
fishing and forget that stuff for a 
while. Hey — what the devil's going 
on? You got a truck driver in the 
control room? I just saw you out 
the port and it looks like you're 
right on top of us!" 

"Jeez, I dunno. It's been like that 
ever since we cleared Lunaport. 
Sometimes I think this guy Cum- 
mins trained in a truck the way he 
— Hell, he's comin' up on the wrong 
side of the Wheel! I relayed the or- 
ders to go to the east turret. Ac- 
knowledged them himself — " 

"Ed! I can see you outside the 
port — we're going to hit!" 

The words were ripped by the 
shattering, grinding roar of collid- 
ing metal. Then a moment later the 
blast of an exploding fuel tank. 

"Ed!" 



"Joe— yeah, I'm here. Lights 
gone. Emergency power still on. 
Take the emergency band if you've 
still got a rig. I'll stand by — " 

Joe switched over without com- 
ment and called Space Command 
Base on the emergency channel, 
which was always monitored. 
"Wheel just rammed by Griseda" 
he said. "Possible loss of orbital ve- 
locity. Extent of damage unknown." 

Lieutenant James, on duty at the 
Base, had just returned from a 
three day leave and was scaircely 
settled in the routine of his post 
once more. He glanced automati- 
cally at the radar tracking screen 
and his face paled at the sight of 
the irregular figure there, slightly 
out of the centering circle. It was 
no gag. 

"You're dropping," he said. "Or- 
bital velocity must be down. Can 
you correct?" 

"I haven't been able to contact 
the bridge," said Joe. "Alert all 
Command and have crash point 
computed. Stand by." 

It developed that the bridge was 
entirely gone, along with a full thir- 
ty percent of the station. Captain 
West had been spared, however, be- 
ing on inspection in the other sec- 
tor of the station. He came on at 
once as Joe McCauley managed to 
get the communication lines re- 
patched. 

"Emergency red!" he called. "All 
stations report!" 

One by one, the surviving crew 
chiefs reported conditions in their 
sectors. And when they were fin- 
ished, they all knew their chance of 
survival was microscopic. Captain 
West ordered : "Communicate with 



RAYMOND F. JONES 



Base. Request plotting of crash 
point." 

"Done, sir," Joe answered. 

"Command post will be establish- 
ed in the radio room. Emergency 
steering procedure will be started 
on command. Man all taxi craft." 

It was all on the tapes that were 
salvaged. Everything was done that 
desperate men could humanly do. 

At Base, its Commander, General 
Oglethorpe, was in the communica- 
tions and tracking room by the time 
Joe McCauley had established con- 
tact with Captain West. 

He picked up the mike at the 
table. "Plug me in to the station," 
he commanded the Lieutenant. 

He got Joe first, but the radio 
operator put Captain West on as 
soon as he arrived in the radio 
room. "Hello, Frank," said General 
Oglethorpe in a quiet voice. 

"Yes, Jack — " Captain West an- 
swered. "I'm glad you're there. 
Does it look pretty bad?" 

"Orbital velocity is down two 
percent. You've been falling for 
eight minutes." 

"That's pretty bad. I've got all 
steering stations manned, but only 
thirty percent of them are still oper- 
able. We're using the taxis to give 
a push too. But we haven't been 
able to dislodge the Griseda. Its 
inertia takes almost half our avail- 
able energy." 

"Couldn't you get a blast from 
the Griseda's tubes to put you in or- 
bit?" 

"Adier's got a crew out there 
working on it. But his controls are 
gone, besides his fuel tanks being 
opened. And even if we could get 

HUMAN ERROR 



their rockets operating it's doubtful 
we could get the right direction of 
thrust. Our hope is in our own 
rockets, and in breaking the ship 
away from the station." 

But the closer the massed wreck- 
age dropped toward Earth, the 
higher were its requirements for or- 
bital velocity. While the crews 
worked at their desperate tasks 
General Oglethorpe sat with his 
eyes on the tracking scope, and the 
voice of his friend in his ear. He 
listened to Captain West's measured 
commands to the men in the station 
and to those working to free the 
ship. General Oglethorpe heard the 
repeated reports of failure to free 
the Griseda. He listened to West's 
orders to transfer fuel from the ship 
to the station as the latter's supply 
ran low. He watched the continued 
deviation of the spot on the track- 
ing scope. 

Then he turned as a lieutenant 
came up behind him with a sheet of 
calculations. "Present rate of fall 
indicates a crash point in the San 
Francisco Bay region, sir." 

The General gripped the paper, 
his face tightening. West said, "Did 
I hear correctly. Jack? The San 
Francisco area?" 

"Yes." 

"We'll have to try to keep it from 
happening there. I'll order the 
rockets shut off now. We'll save 
enough fuel to try to do some last 
minute steering as we approach 
Earth." 

"No!" General Oglethorpe cried. 
"Use it now! Its effect will be the 
same as later. Blow the chambers 
apart! Get back in orbit!" 

"We can't make it/' West said 



quietly. "We've gained forward ve- 
locity, but I'll bet your computers 
will show us better than four per- 
cent below requirements at this or- 
bit. Spot our crash as accurately as 
possible on free fall from our pre- 
sent position. We'll save remaining 
fuel for last minute steering in case 
we're near a city." 

The General was silent then as he 
heard the responses come back 
from the men who manned the 
rockets and who knew that with the 
closing of their fuel valves their 
own lives had also come to an end. 

"We'll want testimony account 
for the investigation," Oglethorpe 
said finally. "Get the responsible 
officers on the circuit — but you first, 
Frank—" 

There was a moment of silence 
before Captain Frank West began 
speaking in changed tones. "What 
is there to say?" he asked, finally. 
"You won't need to hold an inves- 
tigation. I can tell you all you need 
to know — all you'll ever find out at 
least, — right now. Your decision 
will be the same one so many hun- 
dreds and thousands of investigat- 
ing boards have made in the past: 
Pilot Error. 

"Human error! That's what 
killed the first Wheel, and the Gri- 
seda. I don't know why it hap- 
pened. Adler doesn't. Neither does 
any other man up here with us. 
Those who were with Cummins in 
the control room are dead, but they 
didn't know any more than we do. 

"We spent a million dollars train- 
ing that man, Cummins. We be- 
lieved he was the best we could pro- 
duce. We measured his reflexes and 
his intelligence and his blood com- 



position until we thought we knew 
the function and capability of every 
molecule in his body. And then, in 
just one split second, he makes the 
decision of a moron, fumbling when 
he needed to be precise." 

"Just what did he do?" Ogle- 
thorpe asked gently. 

"Our customary approach is to 
the west turret. This time he had 
been ordered to go to the east side 
because of repairs on the other end 
of the hub. Cummins had seen and 
acknowledged the orders. Ap- 
parently, they slipped his mind dur- 
ing approach to the Wheel and he 
came up on the west side. Then he 
remembered and tried to correct his 
position. 

"Everything must have gone 
wrong then. The decision was a 
blunder to begin with. Wrong ap- 
proach, yes. But it was suicide to at- 
tempt such a detailed maneuver 
that close to the station. He used his 
side jets and slammed the Griseda 
into the Wheel at a forty-five degree 
angle, locking the ship in the wreck- 
age of the rim and in the girders of 
the spokes." 

"Was there any previous indica- 
tion of instability in the pilot that 
you know of? We'll get a better an- 
swer on that from Adler, but we 
need to know if you were aware of 
anything." 

"The answer is no! Cummins was 
checked out before the start of the 
flight just three days ago. He was all 
right as far as any of our means of 
evaluation go. As right as any man 
will ever be — 

"Jack, listen to me. Remember 
when we were back at White Sands 
and talked of the days when there 

RAYMOND F. JONES 



would be a Wheel up here, and 
ships taking off for the Moon and 
for Mars?" 

"I remember," said General 
Oglethorpe softly. 

"Well, we've got a piece of that 
dream. But there'll never be any 
more, and what we've got is going 
to go smash unless we correct the 
one weakness we've never tackled 
properly. You'll fail again and 
again as long as men like Cummins 
can destroy twenty years' work and 
billions of dollars worth of engineer- 
ing construction. One man's stupid, 
moronic error, and all of this goes 
to destruction, just as if it had 
never been. 

"On the ground, a plane crashes 
— the board puts it down as pilot 
error and planes go on flying. You 
can't do that out here! The cost is 
too great. It's a sheer gamble put- 
ting this mountain of machinery 
and effort into the hands of men 
we can never be sure of. You think 
you know them; you do everything 
possible to find out about them. 
But you just don't know. 

"We've solved every other tech- 
nical problem that has stood in our 
way. Why haven't we solved this 
one? We've learned how to make a 
machine that will perform in a pre- 
dictable manner, and when it fails 
to do so we can provide adequate 
feed-back alarms and correctors, 
and we can find the cause of error. 

"With a man, we can do nothing. 
We have to accept him, in the final 
analysis, on little more than faith. 

"A couple of hundred men are 
going to die because of a human er- 
ror. Give us a monument! Find out 
why men make errors. Produce a 

HUMAN ERROR 



means of keeping them from it. Do 
that, and our deaths will be a small 
price to pay!" 

These were the words of a dead 
man. They were heard again and 
again in the committee rodms and 
investigation chambers. Tney were 
printed and broadcast around the 
world, and they enabled General 
Oglethorpe to do the thing that be- 
came a burning crusade with him. 

He would probably have failed in 
his effort if those words hadn't been 
spoken by a dying man while a 
shrieking, white-hot mass plunged 
through the atmosphere to land, fi- 
nally, in the waters of the Pacific. 

The wreckage missed the city of 
San Francisco without the necessity 
of guidance by the rocket fuel so 
preciously hoarded by West. The 
Wheel and the Griseda were 
doomed the moment the pilot, 
Cummins, decided to shift the posi- 
tion of the ship with respect to the 
station. 



IN THE anteroom of the Base 
Commander's office, Dr. Paul 
Medick rubbed the palms of his 
hands against his trouser legs when 
the secretary wasn't watching, and 
licked the dryness that burned the 
membrane of his lips. 

The secretary remembered him. 
She probably had been the one to 
make out his severance papers and 
knew all about Oglethorpe's firing 
him. 

Now she was no doubt wondering 
about the General's calling him 
back after that bitter occasion — 
just as Paul himself was wondering. 



But he was pretty sure he knew. 
If he were right it was the oppor- 
tunity of a lifetime, and he couldn't 
afford to muff it. 

The girl turned at the sound of 
a buzz on the intercom. She smiled 
and said, "You may go in now." 

"Thanks." He stood up and told 
his nerves to quit remembering the 
last time he passed through the 
door he was now entering. General 
Oglethorpe was nobody but the 
Base Commander, and if Paul Me- 
dick got thrown out once more he 
would be no worse off than he now 
was. 

Oglethorpe looked up, a grim 
trace of a smile at the corners of his 
mouth. He shook hands and indi- 
cated a chair by the desk, resuming 
his own seat behind it. "You know 
why I called you — in spite of our 
past differences." 

Paul hesitated. He didn't want 
to show his anxiety — and hopeful- 
ness — He weighed the answers that 
might be expected of him, and said, 
"It's this crash thing — and the ap- 
peal of Captain West?" 

"Would there be anything else?" 

"I'm flattered that you thought 
of me." 

"There's nothing personal in- 
volved, believe me! I'd a thousand 
times rather have called somebody 
else — anybody else — but there's no- 
body that can do the job you can." 

"Thanks." 

"Don't bother thanking me. I ex- 
pect there'll still be a great deal of 
difference between us about the 
basic goals of this project. But once 
we start I don't want to have to 
fire you again." 

"Just what is the natxure of this 



project," said Paul, "its goals? Fill 
me in on the details." 

"There are no details — beyond 
what you've read and heard — 
you're going to provide them. The 
objective is to find a kind of man 
that will keep the Frank Wests of 
the future from dying, as those men 
aboard the Wheel did." 

"What kind of man do you ex- 
pect that to be?" Paul asked. 

"One who will eliminate, for all 
time, the damning verdict that has 
been handed down in tens of thou- 
sands of investigations of accident 
and disaster: human error. 

"We're going to find a kind of 
man who can be depended on to 
function without error. One who 
can undertake a complicated task of 
known procedure and perform it an 
infinite number of times, if neces- 
sary, without a single deviation 
from standard." 

Paul Medick regarded the Gen- 
eral through narrowed eyes. In spite 
of his almost agonizing desire to 
possess the appointment to head up 
this Project he had to have a clear 
understanding with Oglethorpe 
now. He had to risk his chances, if 
necessary, to make himself absolute- 
ly clear. 

He said, "For untold thousands 
of years the human race has spent 
its best efforts to reach the goaf of 
perfection without achieving it. 
Now you propose to assemble all the 
money in the world, and all the 
brains and say: give us a perfect 
man! The United States Space 
Command demands him!" 

"Exactly." General Oglethorpe's 
face hardened as he returned Paul's 
steady gaze. "No other technical 

RAYMOND F. JONES 



profilem has been able to stand be- 
fore such an attack. There is no 
reason why this one should. And 
the problem must be solved, or 
we're going to have to abandon 
space just as we stand on the fron- 
tier, getting our first real glimpse of 
it." 

"Your world is such a simple, un- 
complicated place. General," said 
Paul slowly. "You want a man with 
two heads, four arms, and a tail? 
Order it! Coming up! 

"That's the way you operated 
when I set up your basic personnel 
program five years ago. It didn't 
work then; it won't work now." 

The General's face darkened. "It 
will work. Because it has to. Men 
are going to the stars — because they 
have to. And they're going to 
change themselves to whatever 
form or shape or ability is required 
by that goal. They've done every- 
thing else they've ever set them- 
selves to do — life came up out of 
the sea because it had courage. Men 
left their caves and struck out across 
the plains and seas, and took up the 
whole Earth and made it what it is 
— because they had courage. 

"But to go to space, courage is 
not enough. We need a new kind of 
man that we've never seen before. 
He's a man of iron, who's forgotten 
he was ever flesh and blood. He's a 
machine, who can perform over 
and over the same kind of compli- 
cated procedure and never make an 
error. He's more reliable and en- 
durable than the best machines 
we've ever made. 

"I don't know where we'll find 
him, but he can be found, and you 
will do it, because you believe^ as I 

HUMAN ERROR 



do, that Man's frontier must not 
be closed. And because, in spite of 
your cynicism, you still understand 
the meaning of duty to your society 
and your race. There is no possibil- 
ity of your refusal, so I have taken 
steps already to make your appoint- 
ment official." 

"You must also have prepared 
yourself," said Paul, "to accept me 
with the basic philosophy that must 
guide me in this matter. And my 
philosophy is that this Project must 
fail. It has no possibility of success. 
The man you seek does not exist. 
An errorless man would be a dead 
man. 

"Any living man is going to make 
errors. That's the process of learn- 
ing : make an approach, correct for 
error, approach again, correct once 
more. It's the only way there is to 
learn." 

The General inhaled deeply and 
hesitated. "I know nothing about 
that," he said finally. "You know 
what I want. Even if what you say 
were partially true, there remains 
no reason why that which has been 
learned cannot be performed with- 
out error. I may have to put up 
with it, but you'll save yourself and 
all of us a lot of time if you don't 
spend three months digging up rea- 
sons why the Project can't succeed." 

He stood up as if everything had 
been said that could possibly be 
said. "Let's go and have a look at 
your laboratory quarters." 

In the hot sunlight of the South- 
west desert, they walked across the 
yard from the administration build- 
ing to a large laboratory which had 
been cleared to the bare floor and 

11 



walls. Paul felt a sense of instability 
returning. But only for an instant. 
He'd all but insulted the General 
and told him he had no intention 
of producing the iron superman the 
Space Command contemplated. 
And still he had not been thrown 
out. They must want him very bad- 
ly, indeed! 

He had no qualms of conscience 
about taking the post now. General 
Oglethorpe had been forewarned 
and knew what Paul Medick's 
hopes and intentions were. 

"You can build your staff as big 
as you need it," the General was 
saying. "This Project has crash 
priority over everything else. We've 
got the machines to go to space. 
The machines need the men. 

"You can have anybody you 
want and do anything you like to 
them. We hope you can put them 
back together again in reasonable 
shape, but that doesn't matter too 
much." 

Paul turned about the bare room 
that would serve adequately as of- 
fice space. "All right," he said. 
"Consider Project Superman be- 
gun. Remember, I have no hope of 
finding a solution in an errorless 
human being. I'll find whatever an- 
swer there is to be found. If you 
have any objections to my working 
of those terms, say so now. I don't 
intend to get fired again with a 
Project in the middle of its course." 

"You won't be. You'll find the 
way to give us what we need. I 
want you to come down to the other 
end of the building and meet a man 
who will be working closely with 
you." 

There had been sounds of activi- 

12 



ty in the distance, and General 
Oglethorpe led Paul towards them. 
They entered a large area in which 
instrumental equipment was being 
set up. A tall, thin, dark-haired 
man came up as they entered. 

"Dr. Nat Holt," said the General, 
"instrument and electronics expert. 
This is Dr. Medick, the country's 
foremost man in psychology and 
psychometric analysis. 

"Dr. Holt will be your instru- 
ment man. He will design and build 
whatever special equipment your 
researches call for. Let me know 
soon what you'll need in the way of 
furniture and assistants." 

He left them standing in the 
nearly bare room. Through the 
window they watched his stiff form 
march back to his own office. 

Nat Holt shifted position and 
grinned at Paul. "I may as well tell 
you that the General has briefed me 
thoroughly on what he considered 
your probable reaction to the Proj- 
ect. I'm just curious enough to 
want to know if he was right." 

"The General and I understand 
each other-— I think," said Paul. 
"He knows I'm contemptuous of 
his approach to a problem of hu- 
man behavior by ordering it solved. 
But he knows I'll take his money 
and spend it on the biggest, deepest 
investigation of human behavior via 
psychometrical analysis that has 
ever been conducted." 

"It ought to be enough to buy 
gold fringed couches for all the an- 
alysts in the country." 

Paul raised his brows. "If it's 
that way with you, then why are 
you joining me?" he asked. 

"Because I have a stake in this, 

RAYMOND F. JONES 



too! I want to see the problem 
solved just as much as the General 
does. And I think it can be solved. 
But not this way ! 

"There's only one way to prod- 
uce men of superior abilities. The 
method of adequate training. Hard, 
brutal discipline and training of 
oneself. I'm going to convince Ogle- 
thorpe of it after he's seen the fail- 
ure you intend to produce for him." 

"That shouldn't be hard," said 
Paul. "It's the General's own view. 
The Project is simply to implement 
that view. 

"But let's not have any misunder- 
standing about my intentions. I ex- 
pect to give honest value in research 
for every dollar spent. I expect to 
turn up data that will go a long 
way toward providing better space- 
men for the Command — and to 
give Captain West the monument 
he asked for!" 

Alone in his hotel room that 
night, Paul stood at the window 
overlooking the desert. Beyond the 
distant hills a faint glow in the sky 
marked the location of Space Com- 
mand Base. He regarded it, and 
considered the enormity of the 
thing that was being brewed for the 
world in that isolated outpost. Now 
the chance was his to prove that 
manhood was a quality to be proud 
of, that machines could be built 
and junked and built again, but 
that a man's life was unique in the 
universe and could never be re- 
placed once it was crushed. 

For years he'd struggled to probe 
the basic nature of Man and find 
out what divorces him from the 
merely mechanical. He'd known 

HUAAAN ERROR 



there would probably never be 
enough money to reach his goal. 
And then Oglethorpe had come, of- 
fering him all the money in the 
world to reach a nebulous objective 
that Space Command did not know 
was unobtainable. 

Somebody was going to spend 
that money. With clear conscience, 
Paul rationalized that it might as 
well be him. He'd see that the coun- 
try got value for what it spent, even 
if this was not quite what the Space 
Command expected. 

Nat Holt was going to be a most 
difficult obstacle. Paul wished the 
General had let him pick his own 
technical director, but obviously the 
two men understood each other. In 
their separate fields, they were alike 
in their approach to human per- 
formance. Whip a man into line, 
make him come to heel like a re- 
luctant hound. Beat him, shape 
him, twist him to the form you 
want him to bear. 

Discipline him. That was the 
magic word, the answer to all 
things. 

Paul turned from the window in 
revulsion, drawing the curtains on 
the skyglow of the Base. 

Human error! 

When would Man cease to in- 
dulge in this most monumental of 
all errors? When would he cease to 
regard himself and his fellows as 
brute creatures to be beaten into 
line? 

He had to find the right answer 
before Oglethorpe and his kind 
found some flimsy validation for the 
one they had already chosen long 
ago. 

He stood up and glanced at the 

13 



clock, deciding he wanted dinner, 
after all. Tomorrow he'd wire Betty 
and the kids to get packed and be 
on their way. No — he'd phone to- 
night. She had a right to know im- 
mediately the outcome of his inter- 
view. 

The dining room was almost 
empty. He ordered absently and 
clipped the speaker of his small per- 
sonal radio behind his ear while 
waiting. He seldom used it, but here 
in the desert was a sense of isolation 
that made him seize almost com- 
pulsively upon any contact with the 
bright, distant world. The music 
was dull, and the news uninspiring. 
He was about to turn it off when 
his order arrived. 

The wine was very bad ; the steak, 
however, was good, so Paul consid- 
ered it about even. His finger 
touched the radio switch once 
more. The newscaster's voice 
changed its tone of pounding ur- 
gency. "Repercussions of the recent 
crash of the world's first space sta- 
tion are still being heard," he said. 
Murmurs of protest against con- 
struction of a new Wheel are rising 
in many quarters. Today they ap- 
proach the proportions of a roar. 

The influential New England 
Times states that it is 'unqualifiedly 
opposed' to any restoration of the 
Wheel. 'In its three years' existence 
the structure proved beyond any 
question of doubt its utter lack of 
utility. Now its fall to Earth demon- 
strates the menace constituted by 
its presence over every city on the 
face of the globe.' 

"Senator Elbert echoes these sen- 
timents. 'It was utter folly in the 
first place to spend billions of dol- 

14 



lars to construct this Sword of 
Damocles in the sky of all the world. 
I propose that our Government go 
on record denying any further in- 
tention to rebuild such a threat to 
the peace and well-being of nations 
who stand now on the threshold of 
understanding and friendliness 
which they have sought for so 
long.' " 

Paul switched it off. He remem- 
bered the hours of worldwide ten- 
sion while the Wheel was falling 
toward the city of San Francisco. In 
panic, the whole population of the 
Bay Area attempted evacuation, 
but there wasn't time. The bridges 
became clogged with traffic, and 
some hysterical drivers left their 
cars and jumped to the waters be- 
low. 

As the wreckage neared Earth, 
the computers narrowed their circle 
of error until it was certain at last 
that the city would not be struck. 
But the damage was done. The fear 
remained, and now was congealing 
in angry determination that another 
Wheel would not be built. 

Paul finished his meal, wonder- 
ing what effect this would have on 
the plans to build a new Wheel — 
and on Project Superman. Maybe 
Congress would react in anger that 
would cut off all appropriations to 
the Project. 

He wondered, in sudden weari- 
ness, if this would not be an un- 
mixed blessing, after all. 



THE NEXT three days were 
spent in telephone and tele- 
graph communication with mem- 
bers of his profession as he proceed- 



RAYMOND F. JONES 



ed to recruit a staff. 

On Friday, Betty arrived with 
the kids. By the end of the follow- 
ing week, laboratory furniture had 
been installed and the first trickle 
of potential staff members was com- 
ing in to see what Superman was 
all about. Nat, too, had been busy 
forming his own staff and setting 
up basic equipment. 

Paul had the feeling that they 
were opposing camps setting up on 
the same site of exploration. He 
tried to tell himself it was complete- 
ly irrational, until Nat approached 
him a few days later. 

"Quite a crew you're getting in 
here," the technician said. "You'll 
have to take Oglethorpe up on his 
offer of new buildings if you expect 
to find couch space for all your 
boys." 

"That's what you're here for," 
Paul suggested mildly, "to do away 
with couches." 

"Right." Nat nodded. "Anything 
a couch can do, a meter can do 
twice as efficiently." 

"Sometimes both are necessary. 
You forget my specialty is psycho- 
metry." 

"No, I'm not forgetting," said 
Nat. "But that's what makes it so 
hard for me to figure out. You're 
attempting to span two completely 
incompatible fields: science and 
humanities. Man behaves either as 
a machine or as a creature of un- 
stable emotion. To function as one 
you have to suppress the other." 

"Splitting Man in two has never 
produced an answer to anything. 
It has been tried even longer than 
couches— and with far less result." 

"I'll make you a small side bet. 

HUAAAN ERROR 



We going to have to work together 
on Superman, and coordinate all 
our procedures and results. But I'll 
bet the final answer turns up on the 
side of a completely mechanistic 
man, shorn of all other responses 
and motivations." 

"I'll take that!" Paul said with 
a grim smile. "I don't know how 
much of an answer we'll find, but I 
know that won't be it!'' 

"Let's say a small celebration 
feed for the whole crew when Su- 
perman is completed. Nothing 
chintzy, either!" 

They shook on it. And afterward 
Paul was glad the incident had oc- 
curred. It left no doubt about the 
direction Nat Holt would be trav- 
eling in his work. 

Four weeks to the day, from the 
time Paul had stepped into Ogle- 
thorpe's office, he called the first 
meeting of his staff leaders. Invita- 
tions to the General and to Nat 
Holt were deliberately omitted. He 
wanted this first get together to be 
a family affair. 

He felt just a little shaky in the 
knees as he got up before that 
group for the first time. 

"I won't repeat what you already 
know," Paul said carefully. "You 
all know the background events 
that produced Project Superman. 

"I am sure that each of you has 
also caught the two basic errors 
that have been assumed by the 
Space Command, first, that an er- 
rorless man is possible, and second, 
that genuine scientific discovery can 
be secured wholly upon command. 
General Oglethorpe recognizes that 
we consider these assumptions er- 

15 



roneous, but he also knows that our 
professional integrity demands that 
we pursue vigorously a course 
which he believes will result in suc- 
cess. 

"We recognize, too, that we are 
not here to invent or produce any- 
thing that does not already exist. 
But, in a sense, our superiors and 
some of our co-workers expect us 
to do exactly that. 

"We can agree, however, that 
most of Man's potential still re- 
mains to be discovered. And for us, 
who have hoped for a means of 
understanding that potential, this 
Project is the fulfillment of dreams. 
If we fail to take full advantage of 
it, we will win the condemnation of 
our profession for a century to 
come. 

"Space Command has already 
concluded that a man can be 
stripped of his humanity and driven 
to an utterly mechanistic state with 
the robotic responses of a machine. 
Let there be no mistake about it: 
we have been brought here to vali- 
date that conclusion. 

"We will validate it by default, 
so to speak, unless we can produce 
a clean-cut analysis and demon- 
strations of the thing that most of 
us believe: that the essence of Man 
is more than a piece of machinery 
or a collection of bio-chemical re- 
actions. 

"Our science of mind and Man 
is on trial. If we fail, we give con- 
sent to a doctrine that will spread 
from space technology to all the 
rest of our society, and bind Man 
in an iron mold that will not be 
broken for generations. While we 
have been hired and will ostensibly 

16 



work at the task of developing an 
errorless man, our basic purpose 
must be to validate the humanity 
of Man!" 

He waited for their reaction. 
Outside, far across the open desert 
at the station, a rocket screamed in- 
to the air. They waited until the 
sound died away. 

Professor Barker stood up. "There 
is scarcely a human being who has 
not by now read or heard the words 
of Captain West's appeal. They 
will be looking for the day when 
there will come marching from our 
laboratories, like a robot, the error- 
less man he asked for. 

"Do you mean we have to fight 
the stated objectives of this Proj- 
ect? Can we not discover sufficient 
understanding to establish some 
method of training which will ac- 
complish, in another way, the 
things the Space Command needs?" 

"We are not fighting the Space 
Command's desire for more ade- 
quate men for its ships," said Paul. 
"We are fighting only against the 
false conclusions they have already 
formed concerning the nature of 
such men. 

"We must solve the problem of 
human error. We know its purpose 
in the learning process. We must 
discover the reason for its exist- 
ence in a learned process. We have 
to find out what training actually 
means. 

"We have to ask how we know 
when an error has been made. It is 
obvious, of course, when a space- 
ship rams a fixed orbit station. But 
what of the subtler situations, 
where results are less dramadc, or 
are postponed for a long time — ? 

RAYMOND F. JONES 



"The primary thing to remember 
at this point is that our basic goal 
is to prevent any false confirmation 
of the dogma that Man is no more 
than a badly functioning machine, 
which will gain value when he has 
been tinkered with sufficiently so 
that he can slip in beside the gears 
and vacuum tubes and be indistin- 
guishable from them. And to reach 
this goal we must discover his true 
nature." 

It was two weeks later that Gen- 
eral Oglethorpe made his first 
visit since Superman got under way. 
The soldier's face seemed more 
deeply lined and his eyes more 
tired than Paul remembered seeing 
them before. 

"You seem to have things well in 
hand," he said. "How soon can you 
give us some tangible results?" 

"Results! We've just started 
housekeeping. In a year, maybe 
two, we'll have an idea where to be- 
gin a concentrated search for what 
you want to know." 

The General shook his head 
slowly, his eyes remaining on Paul's 
face. "You aren't going to have 
anything like a year. You haven't 
got time to run down one line of 
research and then another. Run 
them all at once — a thousand of 
them if you want to. Why do you 
think you've got the budget you 
have!" 

"Some things," said Paul, "like 
threading a needle — or analysing 
a human being — don't go much 
faster when a thousand men work 
at it than when there's only one." 

"They do when there're a thou- 
sand needles to thread — or brains 

HUMAN ERROR 



to pick. And that's what we're up 
against here. We need a volume of 
the kind of men we've been talking 
about, and we need them quick!" 

"We have to find out how to get 
the first one." 

"And you haven't got as much 
time now as we thought you had 
when Superman began. They're 
trying to close us up. 

"We hadn't planned to build 
another Wheel right away, not un- 
til some refinements of design had 
been worked out, and we had some 
results from Superman. 

"Now, all that's been scrapped. 
We've received orders from Wash- 
ington that erection of a second 
Wheel is to begin at once, using 
the plans of the first one. Fabrica- 
tion of structures is already under 
way." 

"I don't understand," said Paul. 

"If we don't get another one up 
there within a matter of weeks, this 
hysterical opposition among the 
public is liable to prevent us ever 
getting one there again. We have to 
act while we still have authority, 
before the crackpots persuade Con- 
gress to take it away. And by the 
time it's built, I want some men to 
put in it. Men who can be trusted 
to not jeopardize it the moment 
they put their clumsy feet aboard. I 
want them, Medick, and I intend 
to have them. That's by way of an 
order!" 

The General rose, but Paul re- 
mained seated. "You can't get them 
that way, and you know it," the 
latter said. "We'll do all we can, as 
I've told you before." 

"I think you'll do considerably 
more, now. That was quite a talk 

17 



you delivered to your boys a couple 
of weeks ago. We will 'ostensibly 
work at the task of developing an 
errorless man', is the the way I be- 
lieve you put it. You're going to do 
a lot more than ostensibly work at 
it, Medick. Just how much do you 
think you can get away with?" 

Paul remained motionless in the 
chair. Only his lips moved. "So you 
had a report on our little meeting? 
I hope it was complete enough to 
give you the rest of the things I 
said, that my basic purpose was not 
to produce human robots, but to 
validate the humanity of man." 

Oglethorpe leaned closer, his fists 
resting on the top of the desk. "The 
humanity of man be damned! I 
told you before we want men 
who've forgotten they were ever 
human, men of metal and elec- 
trons. If I didn't think you were 
the man who could do it — probably 
the only man in the whole country 
— you wouldn't last here another 
minute. But you can do it, and 
you're going to. 

"Your little lecture was enough 
to ruin your career in any place you 
try to run to, if you undermine Su- 
perman. Who do you suppose 
would trust you with any kind of 
research after that expression of in- 
tent to sabotage the Project your 
Government entrusted you with, 
and which you agreed to carry out? 

"You're finished, Medick, washed 
up completely in your own profes- 
sion, unless you give me what I've 
asked for! I won't take promises 
any more. The only assurance you 
can give me from here on out is re- 
sults ! I want those men, and I want 
them damn fast!" 

18 



PROFESSOR BARKER lis- 
tened attentively as Paul sat 
across from him in the administra- 
tion office and reported Ogle- 
thorpe's visit and demands. 

"We're caught in a squeeze, and 
we've got to push both ways," Paul 
said. "If the Base goes down, Su- 
perman goes with it, and we've lost 
an opportunity that will never come 
again in our lifetimes. So we've got 
to do two things: We've got to 
give active support to the rebuild- 
ing of the Wheel, and we've got to 
develop some kind of show that 
will convince Oglethorpe that Su- 
perman is giving him what he 
wants. It will mean detouring our 
basic objectives, but it's necessary 
in order to have a project at all. I'd 
like you to take charge of it." 

"It'll be a waste of time," Barker 
said slowly. "I wonder if we'll ever 
get back on the track." 

"We'll have to gamble on it," 
said Paul. "I don't want you to feel 
I'm deliberately pushing you up a 
blind alley, but I think you're the 
best man for bringing up something 
we can sell Oglethorpe — while we 
try to do some real research on 
some honest goals." 

"We can follow the usual lines 
of so-called training — brute con- 
ditioning through shock and fear 
and pain and discomfort. Most of 
the men here are already well an- 
aesthetized in that respect. Their 
breakdown level is high." 

"Cummins' was the highest," 
said Paul, "and he cracked. But 
work along those lines anyway. 
Maybe we can find a way to thick- 
en the conditioning armor. At the 
same time let's push a genuine in- 

RAYMOND F. JONES 



vestigation into the nature of error 
as hard as we can. For the moment 
we'll forget broader objectives, un- 
til we know the Project is safe." 

Barker agreed reluctantly, feel- 
ing that they would end up as mere 
personnel counselors before long. 
As soon as he left, Paul called Ogle- 
thorpe. 

"I've got a suggestion," he said. 
"Let's not get on the defensive 
about this thing. Why don't you 
propose a Senatorial investigation 
of Space Command?" 

"Are you crazy? Why would we 
want to have them come out here 
and pick our bones to pieces before 
making final burial?" 

"We've got a story to tell them 
— remember? We've got Superman, 
that's going to produce for the first 
time in the world's history a man 
adequate to go into the dangers of 
space. And there's that little story 
of yours about courage. I think 
that would go over with them. 
We'd be out in front if we took the 
initiative in this instead of just 
waiting until it rolled over us." 

There was a long pause before 
Oglethorpe spoke again. "I wonder 
just what you're trying to do," he 
said finally. "I know you don't 
mean a word of what you're saying 
at all—" 

"But I do mean it," Paul said 
earnestly. "I want Superman saved ; 
you want the Wheel. It amounts 
to the same thing." 

"You could be right. You might 
even be telling the truth. I'll give 
it some thought." 

The officer in charge of the rock- 
et crews and the take-off stand 



was a young engineer-soldier named 
Harper. Paul had met him during 
the first week at Base. His endorse- 
ment of Project Superman was en- 
thusiastic. 

After talking with Oglethorpe, 
Paul took a jeep over to the stand 
and located Harper. The engineer 
was overseeing the fueling process 
on a big rocket. 

"Doc Medick!" Harper ex- 
claimed. "How's your crew of head 
shrinkers coming along? We're 
just about ready for your new 
breed of pilots." 

"What do you mean?" 

"This is the nucleus ship. She's 
going out in orbit tonight with the 
first batch of supplies and instru- 
ments to get ready for the new 
Wheel. We're going to need your 
men awfully fast." 

"That's what I came to talk 
about. Can you spare a few min- 
utes?" 

"Sure." Harper led him to the 
office, where the whining of fuel- 
ing pumps was silenced. "What 
can we do for you?" 

"I wanted to ask about Cum- 
mins. You knew him pretty well, 
didn't you?" 

"Buddies. Just like that." Harper 
crossed his fingers. 

"What went wrong, do you 
think? I know it's all been hashed 
over in the investigations, but I'd 
like your personal feelings about 
him." 

Harper's face sobered and he 
looked away a moment. "Cummins 
was as good a guy as they come," 
he said. "But in a pinch he was 
just a weak sister. That doesn't 
mean he didn't have a lot on the 



HUMAN ERROR 



19 



ball," Harper added defensively. 
"He was a better pilot than most of 
us ever will be, but he was just hu- 
man like the rest of us." 

"What do you mean, 'human'?" 

"Weak, soft, failure when the 
going gets rough — everything we 
have to be on guard against every 
minute we're alive." 

"I take it you don't think much 
of human beings, as such." 

Harper leaned forward earnestly. 
"Listen, Doc, when you've been 
around ships as long as I have, 
you'll know what Captain West 
really meant. The weakest link in 
any technological development has 
always been the men involved with 
its operation. In space flight our 
weakness is pilots and technicians. 
Set a machine on course and it'll 
go until it breaks down— and flash 
you a warning before it fails. With 
a man, you never know when he's 
going to fail, and you have to be on 
guard against his breakdown every 
minute because he won't give any 
Warning. 

"Think what it's like to be in our 
shoes! We take the controls of a 
few hundred million dollars worth 
of machinery, and we know that 
every last man of us is booby- 
trapped with some weakness that 
can break out in a critical moment 
and destroy everything. We fight 
against it; we struggle to hold it in 
and act like responsible instru- 
ments. And we grow to hate our- 
selves because of the weak things 
that we are. 

"Cummins was like that. He 
fought himself every waking hour, 
knowing that he had a weakness of 
becoming confused in a tight spot. 

20 



Oh, it was nothing that even 
showed up on the tests, and he was 
the best man of any of us on the 
Base. But he knew it was there, just 
as we all know our closets bulge 
with skeletons that we try to keep 
from breaking out." 

"Do you fight yourself the way 
Cummins did?" Paul asked. 

"Sure." 

"What would happen if you 
pulled a blunder that wrecked that 
ship out there on the stand." 

"I'd have had it, that's all. I'd 
never get within ten miles of a rock- 
et base again as long as I lived. 
And there wouldn't be much worth 
living for — " 

"It would be pretty wonderful to 
feel you weren't constantly on the 
verge of some disastrous blunder, 
wouldn't it?" 

"It would be a rocket man's idea 
of heaven to handle these ships 
with that kind of a feeling inside 
him." 

"We're about ready to begin run- 
ning tests on Superman, and I'd 
like you to be the first to help us 
out. Can you arrange it?" 

"We're tied up like a ball of 
string on getting the nucleus ship in 
orbit. I know Oglethorpe gave or- 
ders we were to jump when you 
called, but I'll have to check on 
replacements for those of us you 
take. What kind of test are you 
going to run on me?" 

"I want to find out how long it 
takes you to make a serious error, 
and what happens to you when you 
do!" 

Arrangements were made for in- 
itiating this series of tests two days 

RAYMOND F. JONES 



later. Paul had designed them, and 
Nat Holt's crew had built the 
equipment. 

But before they were started, 
Paul grew increasingly aware of the 
clamor and public agitation against 
the Wheel. Instead of dying out 
after a small spurt of anger, it was 
accumulating momentum in every 
corner of the nation. 

A rabble rouser named Morgan 
in the middle-west had proposed a 
motor caravan to Space Command 
Base, where the participants would 
go on a sit-down strike until as- 
surance was given that no Wheel 
would be built again. And on the 
heels of this came the demand by 
an increasing number of Senators 
for a full investigation of the Base. 

Paul met Barker after seeing the 
newscast of Morgan's revivalist 
type appeal for a caravan of prO' 
test against the Base. "This looks 
like it could get to be something 
that would be hard to handle," 
Barker said. "It doesn't seem rea- 
sonable that the near-crash of the 
first Wheel at San Francisco could 
be responsible for all this commo- 
tion." 

"I don't think it is," Paul an- 
swered reflectively. "The sinking of 
a big ocean liner doesn't produce 
hysterical demands that no more 
ships be built. The crash of an air- 
ship with a hundred people aboard 
is accepted for what it is, without 
this kind of reaction. I think these 
broadcasts and write-ups of Gap- 
tain West's appeal have sunk in 
deeper than Oglethorpe or anyone 
else ever intended. 

"For a long time there has been 
building up a sense of man's in- 

HUMAN ERROR 



feriority to his machines. Now this 
incident of the Wheel and the 
world-wide broadcast of West's 
final words have triggered that in- 
feriority into a genuine fear. 
They're afraid to have another 
Wheel up there over their heads. 
They're afraid that no man is capa- 
ble of mastering such a piece of 
machinery." 

Not only the public was infected 
with this fear, but the very men on 
whom the operation of the ships 
depended. Harper was right, Paul 
thought, as he reached his own of- 
fice again. It must be terrible to be 
in their shoes, fighting constantly 
the conviction that they were poor 
miserable creatures hardly fit to 
polish the shining hulls of their 
creations! 

They were trained in the best of 
military traditions, crushing their 
weaknesses by sheer force. And they 
had concluded their own break- 
down was inevitable, in spite of 
their training and traditions. How 
could such men even hope for the 
stars! 

But where was the flaw in it all? 
If the answer was not in men who 
were more nearly like their own 
machines, where was it? 

They needed a year or two to 
even approach the problem proper- 
ly, and some kind of answer was 
demanded within weeks! 

Oglethorpe came to the labora- 
tory the morning Harper was to be- 
gin his test runs. "We're going on 
a complete crash-priority basis, 
with round-the-clock shifts," he 
said. "It's been a toss-up whether 
to close Superman and put every- 
thing we had on the new Wheel, or 

21 



leave it open in the hope of getting 
something out of it. 

"For the time being I'm leaving 
it open, but remember that every 
hour Harper or one of his men 
spends here is an hour away from 
the job on the Wheel. 

"We didn't need your suggestion 
about an investigation. Plenty of 
other people thought of it first. The 
Senators will be here in four or 
five days. You're going to talk to 
them. You're going to tell them 
what you proposed to tell them," 

"Of course. And what are you 
going to do about Morgan's caval- 
cade?" 

Oglethorpe spat out an exclama- 
tion. "We'll set up barricades that 
they'd better not cross within ten 
miles of Base!" 

"That won't help," Paul warned. 
"I think you'd better let me pre- 
pare something for them, too." 

"Forget them! Take care of the 
Senators and the Project and you'll 
be doing enough." 

Harper arrived shortly, nervous 
in spite of his attempt to appear 
composed. But he was put at ease 
when they took him to the labora- 
tory of complex testing equipment 
assembled by Nat Holt. 

Paul indicated a seat in the mid- 
dle of the mass of equipment. "As 
near as we've been able to make it," 
he said, "this simulates the landing 
procedure of a rocket craft. There 
are a hundred and thirty-five dis- 
tinct actions, observations and 
judgements involved. A taped 
voice will lead you through the se- 
quence, asking you to press buttons 
and make adjustments to indicate 
your observations and responses. 

22 



When you can do all this to your 
satisfaction, you will turn off the 
tape and continue for as many 
cycles as you can." 

"How long? A man could do that 
for a month, provided he didn't 
have to sleep." 

"I think you'll be a little sur- 
prised. You will continue until 
your accumulation of errors be- 
comes so great that the entire pro- 
cedure collapses." 

"It still looks like a kid's game to 
me," Harper said confidently. 
"Let's get started." 

Carefully, they fitted the mul- 
tiple electrodes of the electro-en- 
cephalograph recorder to his. skull. 
The tape instructor was turned on, 
and Harper began the first cycle. 

Behind the one-way glass of the 
observation room, Paul sat with 
Nat Holt and Professor Barker and 
two assistants, watching. The rocket 
engineer began jatmtily, contemp- 
tuous of the simple actions re- 
quired of him, impatient to have it 
over with and get back to his duties 
at the take-off stand. 

The instructions coming over the 
speaker had some variations from 
the normal handling of a ship, in- 
cluding the items necessary to re- 
cord observations and responses. 
Harper listened to these for a half 
dozen cycles. Then, confident that 
he could breeze through the pro- 
cedure for the rest of the day if he 
had to, he switched off the tape 
and settled back to take it easy. 

One by one, he watched the 
meters, noted their information, 
made the proper adjustments, add- 
ed compensations, waited for re- 
sults, checked and re-checked — 

RAYMOND F. JONES 



"He'll go a long time," said Nat 
Holt confidently. "He's had top 
training. If it breaks down, we may 
find out a few things." 

"Cummins had top-drawer train- 
ing, too," Paul said. "His break 
point seemed to have no adequate 
antecedents. I don't think we're 
going to find Harper holding out 
very long." 

After an hour, the attitude of 
contempt had left Harper's face, 
and he was proceeding with ob- 
vious boredom. He had made no er- 
ror yet, but there was evident a 
faint trace of anxiety as he con- 
centrated on the instruments and 
levers. 

At two hours and a half Harper 
reached for a button and withdrew 
his hand in abrupt hesitation. Then 
it darted out again and pressed de- 
cisively. At three hours he was mak- 
ing two such hesitations every cy- 
cle. 

"Not so good," Barker comment- 
ed. "Not for a man who battles 
himself the way Harper does." 

Nat Holt remained silent, watch- 
ing critically the wavering dials 
and graphs showing the engineer's 
physical condition and reaction. 

At four and a half hours. Har- 
per's hand reached for a lever in 
the center of the board. But it 
didn't get more than a third of the 
way. In mid-air it froze, as if paral- 
ysis had suddenly struck it. Harper 
regarded it in seeming dumb as- 
tonishment. His face grew red, and 
sweat broke out upon his forehead 
as if from the physical exertion of 
trying to put his hand to the lever. 

Paul grabbed a microphone and 
switched it on. "Touch the lever," 

HUMAN ERROR 



he commanded, "Draw it toward 
you." 

Harper looked around as if in 
panic, but he completed the mo- 
tion. He sat staring at the panels 
for a full two minutes while alarm 
eyes went from green to yellow to 
red. 

"Alarm red!" Paul exclaimed in- 
to the microphone. "Correct 
course!" 

Harper turned and glared about 
with hate in his eyes as if to find 
the source of the sound. He began 
tearing at the wires and contacts 
fastened to his head and body. "To 
hell with the course!" he cried. "I'm 
getting out of here!" 

He hurled the wiring harness at 
the panels. Then, he stood in a 
moment's further paralysis and 
slumped finally into the chair. He 
put his arms and head down on the 
instrument desk and began sob- 
bing deeply. 

Paul put away the microphone 
and moved to the door. "That's the 
end of that," he said. "I hope our 
record is good. Harper might not 
like to go through that again." 

Nat Holt was still staring through 
the window at the sobbing engineer. 
"I don't understand," he mur- 
mured. "What made him break 
down like that for no reason at 
all?" 



ONE BY one, the top engineers 
of the Base went through the 
breakdown test. Some broke down 
with an emotional storm as Harper 
had, others simply ended in a swirl 
of confusion that put lights flash- 
ing all over the panels. But all of 

23 



them had a breaking point of some 
kind that could be measured in a 
small number of hours. 

The test was a stab in the dark. 
It was based on an old and well- 
known principle that repeated tac- 
tile contact under command will 
break down the motor responses of 
the body in a matter of hours. Paul 
did not know whether it would ac- 
tually provide a fertile lead to the 
problem of error or not, but it 
seemed the closest possible ap- 
proach at present. 

Nat Holt, however, was astonish- 
ed at the reaction of the men. He 
insisted on trying it himself, deter- 
mined that he would not break 
down no matter what happened. 
He lasted six hours before the panel 
lit up like a Christmas tree. 

He subjected the resulting curves 
to an analyzer, and to his own he 
gave the most detailed attention. 
At the end of a full week of study 
on it, he called Paul with an ex- 
citement he could not suppress in 
his voice. 

"It looks like you owe that din- 
ner," he said. "We've got what we 
were looking for!" 

"What are you talking about?" 
Paul demanded. 

"We've got proof that a human 
being is nothing more nor less than 
a simple cybernetic gadget. It's a 
laugh — people trying to build a 
mechanical man all these years. 
That's the only kind there is!" 

"You still aren't making sense." 

"Come on over and see for your- 
self." 

Puzzled and irritated, Paul left 
his office and went down to the 
analyzer laboratory. There he 

24 



found Holt and his staff in a buzz 
of excitement. 

Tlie multiple recorder sheets 
were laid out on long tables, being 
studied intensely. Paul followed 
Holt to one series that was sepa- 
rated from the rest. 

"We didn't know we had any- 
thing at first," said Holt. "The 
pulse was so low in amplitude that 
it was hard to pick out of the noise, 
but the analyzer showed it was con- 
sistently present under certain con- 
ditions of the subject." 

"What conditions?" said Paul. 

"At the exact moment of com- 
mitting an error! I should say it oc- 
curs between the moment of mak- 
ing the decision to carry out an 
erroneous act and the triggering of 
the motor impulse that executes it." 

Paul frowned. "How can you be 
sure it doesn't occur at any other 
time as well?" 

"Because we've run every set of 
charts through the analyzer and 
this particular impulse comes out 
no other place." 

"It looks very interesting," Paul 
said. "But why did you say you've 
got proof that a human being is 
nothing but a cybernetic gadget? 
I don't see what this has got to do 
with it." 

"I didn't give you quite all the 
story," Holt said smugly. "I should 
have said that the pulse occurred 
every time there was an intent to 
perform an error. Sometimes that 
intent was not carried out." 

"I don't understand." 

"That pulse is nothing more nor 
less than a feedback pulse indicat- 
ing that an action matrix has been 
set up which is in non-conformity 

RAYMOND F, JONES 



with the previously chosen pattern 
of learning or intent. It's a feed- 
back alarm carrying the informa- 
tion that an error will result if the 
proposed action is carried out. 
When the feedback is successful- 
ly returned to the action matrix a 
change is made until there is no 
feedback and a correct action is 
taken. When the feedback is 
blocked or ignored, an error results. 
It's as simple as that! Your com- 
plex human being is nothing but a 
fairly elaborate cybernetic machine 
operating wholly on feedback prin- 
ciples. The only time he fails and 
breaks down is when he ceases to 
act like the cybernetic machine 
that he is!" 

Holt's eyes shone triumphantly 
as he patted the long strips of paper 
on the table. Paul followed the mo- 
tion of his hand and remained star- 
ing at the graphs in a kind of 
stunned recognition. There must be 
some mistake, there had to be. 
Holt's interpretation was wrong, 
even if the data were correct. Man, 
a feedback response mechanism — ! 
If that were true a vacuum tube 
structure could eventually be de- 
vised to do anything a man could 
do. 

"I think we'll hold off on that 
dinner a while yet," Paul said. 
"The data are interesting and, I'm 
sure, important — but I can hardly 
agree with your conclusions." In- 
wardly, he cursed the stiltedness 
he felt creeping into his voice, and 
his irrational resentment of Holt's 
continued smug grin. 

"Take all the time you want," 
Holt said, "but when you're 

HU^y^AN ERROR 



through you'll come up with the 
same answers I've got. Man is a 
machine and nothing else. Our 
only job now is to discover why the 
feedback sometimes fails, and to 
set it back on the job." 

Paul took the recording? and the 
analyzer graphs back to his own 
office. 

He called Barker and showed the 
older man what Holt had found 
out. "If this is true," he said, "we 
don't need to worry about validat- 
ing Space Command's pre-chosen 
conclusions. It has already been 
done." 

Dr. Barker looked puzzled and 
a little frightened as he sat down at 
the desk to examine the charts. 
After an hour, he looked up. "It's 
true," he said. "There's no escaping 
the fact. Look what we have here 
— " He pointed to a corresponding 
sector of the six charts he'd lined 
up. 

"After the first feedback impulse, 
there was no attempt to correct," 
he said, "or, rather, there was a 
deliberate effort to suppress the 
feedback. This created a second, 
larger feedback, which, in turn re- 
sulted in increased suppression and 
a simultaneous enlargement of the 
error. The result was a hunting 
effect in increasingly large ampli- 
tude, like the needle of an autosyn 
indicator with undamped positive 
feedback. 

"Now, here's another one with 
the opposite effect. In this case the 
hunting shows diminishing ampli- 
tude as correction of the effort re- 
sults from application of the feed- 
back pulses. One pulse is not suffi- 
cient, but they are applied in de- 

25 



creasing force as the intent is 
brought into alignment with the 
learned pattern. A purely mechan- 
ical response!" 

Paul turned from the window 
through which he had been staring 
toward the launchers. "Then Space 
Command is perfectly right," he 
said bitterly. "We can give them 
their errorless, mechanical men — 
just as soon as we find ways of cor- 
recting the blockage of the feed- 
back pulses!" 

Barker leaned back in his chair 
and folded his hands across his 
moderate paunch. "I'm afraid 
that's right. We've been wrong all 
along in bucking the mechanical 
concept of Man. The technologists 
saw it long ago in a sort of intui- 
tive way, but they couldn't prove 
it. Now, they can!" 

"And the soul of Man is nothing 
but a feedback impulse!" 

Barker sighed heavily. "What 
else, Paul?" 

Morgan's Caravan appeared 
that evening and camped at the 
ten-mile limit imposed by the mili- 
tary police guards. They posted 
their signs of protest and began 
their picket lines. Oglethorpe sent 
out his sound trucks to try to scare 
them away, but they wouldn't 
scare. 

Paul watched at home the broad- 
cast of the scene, but the fate of the 
Base and the Wheel had almost 
ceased to concern him. He told 
Betty of the discovery Holt had 
made on Superman. 

"It leaves nothing to account for 
the most valued acts of Man," he 
said. "It can't account for crea- 

26 



tiveness, because a cybernetic de- 
vice cannot create; it can only fol- 
low a pattern. So where is the 
poetry, the art, the scientific in- 
vention if this is the essence of 
Man? It can't be, yet there's no 
way of getting around this thing." 

"Where does the pattern come 
from?" asked Betty. "Isn't that the 
created thing which the cybernetic 
system tries to follow?" 

Paul shook his head. "The pat- 
tern we're talking about is no more 
than a response to stimuli, a purely 
mechanical thing also. Holt claims 
this is all there ever is, that what 
we call art, poetry, music inspira- 
tion, and intuition are nothing 
more than the results of badly func- 
tioning cybernetic systems. The 
more or less irrational results of 
errors in accommodating to the 
real world. We find pleasure in 
them because they tend to excuse 
our badly malfunctioning circuits. 

"The ideal, race of Man would 
be devoid of all this, a smoothly 
operating group of individuals un- 
perturbed by emotional or artistic 
responses, completely capable of 
solving any problem in a purely 
cybernetic manner." 

"And do you agree with it?" Bet- 
ty asked. 

"There's nothing else I can do! 
The evidence is there." He laughed 
shortly and moved to the window 
where he could see the nearby 
camp of Morgan's Caravan. "Hu- 
man development has moved— is 
moving — in a completely different 
direction from anything I ever 
dreamed. Oglethorpe's iron-hard, 
emotionless machine-men are the 
only ones who'll get there. The rest 

RAYMOND F. JONES 



of us who can't match the pace of a 
technological society will be 
shucked ofiF as the waste part in the 
development of a species meant to 
inhabit galaxies instead of a single 
world." 

"If I had ever wondered how 
you'd sound when you were com- 
pletely out of your mind I'd have 
the answer now," said Betty. 

In the morning he turned over to 
one of the units the task of further 
identifying and analyzing the feed- 
back impulse they had discovered. 
In the middle of this he was called 
to Oglethorpe's office. The investi- 
gating Senators had arrived. 

They were favorably impressed 
by the day-long tour that General 
Oglethorpe provided for them 
around the entire Base. But they 
found in Paul's announcement the 
strongest single factor in favor of 
permitting Space Command to con- 
tinue with its work. 

"We know now," he said, "and 
this is something I haven't even 
had time to present to General 
Oglethorpe — we know that a com- 
pletely mechanical man is possible." 

The General's eyes narrowed as 
Paul's flat statement continued. 
"We know that it is possible to 
have men at the helm of our ships, 
who are incapable of error. We 
have hopes of producing them with- 
in a very short time if Project Su- 
perman is allowed to continue. And 
when this is done, there is no tech- 
nical goal we cannot reach." 

This was the thing the Senators 
had come to find out, and they 
were satisfied. "But the public has 
got to be reassured of this," Sena- 
tor Hart said. "We need to get 

HUMAN ERROR 



this mob away from your gates for 
one thing. The news programs 
keep them constantly before the 
public eye and the whole country 
is stirred up." 

"We'll take care of it at once," 
General Oglethorpe said. "As Dr. 
Medick has indicated, this dis- 
covery is so new that even I had 
not been informed of it. Morgan's 
mob will go away as soon as they 
hear the news. And that, in turn, 
will reassure the entire country. We 
can arrange for a broadcast by Dr. 
Medick to the whole nation." 

Paul was swept along as arrange- 
ments were made to make a state- 
ment to Morgan and his group 
camped outside the Base, to the 
press, and to the public in general. 

Oglethorpe cornered him after 
the meeting with the Committee. 
"This is on the level," he said, "not 
something you cooked up on the 
spur of the moment?" 

"It's on the level," said Paul. 
"You were right all along." 

When he returned to his office 
an urgent message from Barker 
awaited him. He hurried down to 
the testing laboratory, where the 
older man greeted him in excite- 
ment and anxiety. 

"It looks like we've got some- 
thing by the tail and can't let go 
of it. Come in and have a look." 

Paul followed him and found 
Captain Harper in an observation 
room, writhing on a cot in a storm 
of tears and emotional fury. He 
beat against the walls and the 
floor with his fists as his sobbing 
continued beyond control. 

"What happened to him?" Paul 
demanded. 

27 



"We have three others in the 
same condition," said Barker. "We 
tried to determine the effect of a 
pure feedback impulse, and fed it 
back to each of them in amplified 
form as we found it on their charts. 
This is what happened. I'm afraid 
we may have cost them their sanity, 
and we don't know why." 

"How could their own feedback 
do such a thing to them?" he asked 
in wonder. "What part of the chart 
did you take it from?" 

"We used the impulse that didn't 
get through, the one that was 
blocked so that error resulted. Ap- 
parently this is the alternative to 
error." He nodded toward the 
writhing, sobbing man. "Harper 
reached a point where he had to 
fail or else be subject to this psy- 
chic storm." 

Paul ran his long, bony fingers 
through his hjiir. "This makes less 
sense than ever! If that's true, then 
we've got to take back what we've 
told Oglethorpe. His errorless man 
isn't possible, after all." 

"I don't know." Barker shook his 
head thoughtfully. "Evidently the 
production of error is a protection 
against the admission of this in- 
tolerable feedback impulse. But the 
question remains: why is it in- 
tolerable, and why does it become 
so after numerous other feedback 
impulses have been passed? 

"Yesterday we thought we had 
it all wrapped up. Now it's blown 
open wider than ever before!" 

Oglethorpe's public relations 
man prepared a statement to the 
effect that further danger from 
pilot error in rocket ships and the 

28 



second Wheel could be considered 
as completely eliminated with the 
new training processes that would 
make men incapable of technical 
errors. 

Paul knew it was as ineffectual 
as the average Government release, 
but he made no protest in his con- 
cern for Harper and the three 
other men. He signed the statement 
automatically. 

He was presented the following 
day, however, with arrangements to 
give it personally to the members 
of Morgan's Caravan from the top 
of one of the soimd trucks. He did 
protest then that any flunky on the 
Base could read it to the crowd as 
well as he. But Oglethorpe insisted 
he do it personally. 

With official pompousness the 
big, olive-green truck rolled out 
from the Base. Paul rode beside the 
driver and Metcalf, the public re- 
lations man. He'd not told Ogle- 
thorpe about their latest develop- 
ment. If this psychic reaction to 
feedback proved an impenetrable 
barrier there' d be time enough to 
give Space Command the bad 
news. In the meantime a Wheel 
would be buUt, the public would be 
mollified, and Superman would 
continue on — to what unknown 
ends Paul didn't know. 

The massed camp of the fanatic 
followers of Morgan appeared in 
the distance like a discarded rag on 
either side of the road. Then as 
they approached it broke into in- 
dividual knots of sand-scoured, un- 
washed people clustered about their 
tents. Morgan hadn't given much 
thought to adequate facilities be- 
fore leading them out here. 

RAYMOND F. JONES 



The truck rolled to a halt in the 
center of the camp. Morgan him- 
self, a long, lanky figure in a dusty 
black suit, came at the head of a 
group of his people to meet them. 
"I hope you have the news we are 
waiting for," he said cordially. 

"We have a statement," said 
Metcalf. "Dr. Medick here, who 
has made an important discovery 
that will enable all of you to return 
to your homes, will read it to you." 

Paul could have stayed in the 
cab, but he preferred to climb to 
the platform atop the truck to get 
a look at the crowd Morgan had 
assembled. He hesitated a moment 
with the paper in his hands, then 
took up the mike and read the 
statement Metcalf had prepared. 
"The United States Space Com- 
mand wishes to announce that — " 

It fell utterly flat on completely 
non-understanding ears. Paul 
looked over the mass of faces and 
knew it had failed. Something far 
more than this was needed. A little 
feedback, he thought grimly. A lit- 
tle feedback of the idiocy of their 
present situation to correct their 
course and return it to normalcy. 

"Five hundred years ago there 
might have been a crowd of people 
just like you," he said suddenly in 
low tones. "There was a harbor, 
and some small ships, and a man 
who believed he could sail them 
over the edge of the world. On the 
shore were people who thought he 
was a fool and a blasphemer, and 
a few who thought he was right — 
or at least hoped he was. 

"Five hundred years ago was 
the beginning of a new freedom 
from the prison of a tiny, con- 

HUMAN ERROR 



stricted world. Today, another free- 
dom waits our successful conquest 
of space. And whenever a freedom 
has been won there have been more 
who jeered against it than have 
cheered for it. You are today mak- 
ing a choice — " 

He talked for ten minutes, and 
when he was through he knew that 
he'd accomplished his goal. Even 
before the sound truck pulled out, 
the cars of the Caravan were break- 
ing away from the mass and dis- 
appearing in the distance. 

"Nice job," Metcalf congratulat- 
ed, as if he'd been responsible for 
it himself. 

"Just a little feedback in the 
right place — " murmured Paul ab- 
sently. 

"Feedback? What's that — new 
kind of propaganda technique — ?" 

"Yeah, you might call it that. 
How could a guy have been so 
blind — ?" he said fiercely, more to 
himself than to his companions. 

He hurried to the laboratory as 
soon as the truck got him back to 
Base. He rounded up Barker and 
Nat Holt and a dozen of his other 
top men. "The answer's been under 
our noses all the time," he said. 
"We've been too busy fighting each 
other for the sake of our own pre- 
conceived notions to have seen it!" 

"What are you talking about?" 
Holt demanded. 

"Feedback. Can't you guess what 
it is?" 

"No." 

"Are you willing to let us give 
you a small dose — something less 
than the level given Harper and 
his men — and then tell us what you 
find out about it?" 

29 



Nat Holt looked hesitant. "If you 
think you know what you're talking 
about. There's no point in my get- 
ting in a condition like Harper's." 

"We'll pull you out before you 
get anywhere near that far." 

Still dubious, he took a seat amid 
the mass of pulse generating equip- 
ment and electroencephalograph 
recorders. A single pair of feed- 
back terminals were fitted to his 
skull. The generator was set to 
duplicate his own feedback impulse 
taken from a moment of failure. 

Paul switched on the circuits and 
advanced the controls carefully. A 
look of pain and regret crossed 
Holt's face. He cried out with a 
whimper. "Turn it off!" 

"A second more — ," Paul said. 
He advanced the control a hair 
and waited. The technologist be- 
gan to cry suddenly in a low, sob- 
bing voice. 

Paul cut the switch. 

For a moment Holt continued 
to slump in the chair, his shoulders 
jerking. Then he looked up, half- 
bewildered, half-furious. "What 
did you do to me?" he demanded. 

"You did it to yourself," Paul re- 
minded him. "That's your own 
feedback pulse just beefed up a lit- 
tle, remember. How did it feel?" 

"Terrible! No wonder a guy 
dodges that. It's enough to make 
him wreck a space station to avoid 
the full blast of it." 

"What would you call it?" 

"I don't know—," Holt hesitated. 
"Grief, maybe. Regret — anxiety. 
But regret, mostly, I guess." 

"That's your feedback," Paul 
said as he removed the terminals 
and turned to the others. "These 



feedback pulses we've isolated are 
nothing but stabs of pure emotion." 

He turned with a faint smile to 
Holt. "You and Harper and the 
rest of the iron-bowelled boys were 
so convinced that the pure mechan- 
ical man would be utterly devoid 
of all emotional responses and con- 
tent! And I was so sure that a 
warm, responsive, emotional human 
being could never respond like a 
cold machine! 

"And we were both utterly 
wrong. The human being does both. 
He operates on true cybernetic 
principles. But the content of his 
feedback control pulses is sheer 
emotion ! 

"A small error, a stab of regret. 
It's repeated, magnified, or dimin- 
ished until the action gets back on 
the track that brings predicted re- 
sults. Ignored, the error builds up 
until the whole structure goes 
smash. 

"And we're taught to ignore it! 
It's the noble, brave and manly 
thing to ignore the human feelings 
that surge through us. Be steel, be 
glass, be electrons — anything but a 
responsive, emotional human being! 
That's the way to be a super-man! 
We've tried to find the way to per- 
fection and have fought tooth and 
nail against the only means of 
achieving it." 

Barker's face was glowing with 
excitement and Holt seemed to be 
remembering something afar off. 
"That was it," he breathed softly. 
"I can feel it now — the way it was 
as I began to get jittery and make 
mistakes in the test procedures. I 
seemed to fight something within 
myself — something I thought was 

RAYMOND F. JONES 



making me do it wrong. But it 
wasn't that, at all. I was fighting 
against the emotional feedback the 
errors were throwing at me." 

"Right," said Paul. "And your 
iron-hard, errorless Superman is 
going to be the most emotionally 
sensitive creature you can produce." 

"How did you catch on to this?" 
Barker asked. 

"We should have seen it in Har- 
per. He's the original iron-man. 
He's bottled up and fought his 
emotions all his life. A concentrat- 
ed dose of his own feedback simply 
shattered the dam. 

"But I didn't get it until I 
watched Morgan's mob reacting to 
the purely rational explanation 
Metcalf prepared to convince them 
they should go home. They were on 
a wrong tack and needed a gen- 
erous amount of the right feedback 
to get them back where they be- 
longed. The cold, logical approach 
was a dud. What does it take to 
move an intractible mob? Emotion 
— based on the projected con- 
sequences of what they're doing. A 
perfect feedback setup when cor- 
rectly applied. And it worked." 

Holt shuddered faintly and 
moved away from the chair he had 
sat in to experience his own feed- 
back. "I'm not quite sure who owes 



who that dinner," he said to Paul. 
"But I think somebody does." 

"We'll split it," Paul said. And 
then he was silent as they listened 
to the departure of another cargo 
ship carrying parts of the second 
Wheel to the thousand-mile orbit. 

He smiled to himself. Ye of little 
faith! — he thought. Frightened 
about the true nature of a race that 
had come through three billion 
years of the kind of torment that 
Man had survived! 

Man had everything that was 
needed to go to the stars or any- 
where else he might want to go. He 
was safe. Man could never be 
turned into a robot. The basic 
mechanisms of his humanity were 
so interwoven with the structure of 
his being that they could never be 
separated. 

But they hadn't come very far, 
Paul knew. They had opened only 
a small crack in a door that had 
been irrationally closed from the 
beginning of time. They had to 
know fully why that door had never 
been opened before. And beyond it 
might lie a thousand others just as 
tightly closed and closely guarded. 

Yet they had reached a starting 
point, at last. Project Superman 
could get about its business of pre- 
paring men for the stars. • • • 



A free sample copy of the current issue of 

FANTASY TIMES 

the science fiction newspaper will be sent to any reader of 
IF on request. Please mention this ad. FANDOM HOUSE, 
P.O. Box 2331, Peterson 23, N.J. 



HUMAN ERROR 



31 



THE 



i^x^tntxnntx 



t rit rtt 



:5- fh- b, t=3=- 



o o o o <:> a _y p o o o 




Illustrated by Kelly Preas 



The vote was three to two for death! Jacques had 
no choice. He was a public servant with a duty . , . 



BY FRANK RILEY 



ba. ta^ tsy fe- te^ [Sb- 



ii ■ • ■ I^ONTINUED FAIR weather and the unusual 
V-< circumstances of the execution promise a turn- 
away crowd of more than 100,000 spectators by Court time. 
All unreserved tent space has been sold out for several days. 
Next news at . . ." 

Sir Jacques de Carougne, Lord High Executioner for the 
Seventh Judicial District, spun the dial on the instrument 
panel of his single-seater rocket, but the vidcasts were over 
for another hour. He cursed, without too much vigor, and 

wished he had troubled to look 
at a vidcast or faxpaper during 
his vacation. But then he 
-shrugged his massive shoulders. 
What did it matter? After a 
thousand executions, everything 
was instinct and reflex. Some 
died hard ; some died easy. Some 
fell to their knees, too paralyzed 
with fear to fire their own shots. 
Others fought daringly, even 
with a degree of skill, but always 
the end was the same : A broken 
body bleeding and twitching in 
the du.st; the blood-happy spec- 
tators shrieking in the ecstacy 
of release from the humdrum of 
their pushbutton lives; the flow- 
ers, the scented kerchiefs and the 
shreds of torn garments show- 
ered on him by screaming wom- 
en, who always seemed to find 
him more satisfactory in the 
arena than in his tent. 

As the skyline of New Chicago 
shimmered into view, Jacques flipped on the 'copter mech- 
anism. His air speed braked, and the needle-nosed little 
craft drifted lazily down the eastern shore of Lake Michi- 
gan, then veered westward over the tinted glass rooftops 
of the spotless city. 

Jacques stared glumly down at the city that had been so 
much a part of his life, from the long-ago years of his train- 
ing and youth to the professional years of his most famous 
executions. 

Farther to the west, out beyond the eternally green land- 
scaping and the precise, functional homes of the residential 

33 




suburbs, Jacques saw the crude 
stone parapets of the Chauvency 
judicial arena, surrounded by acre 
after acre of colorful tents and 
pavilions. 

His powerful, jutting nose wrin- 
kled with disgust, but his eyes 
widened at the number of tents. 
There must indeed be something 
unusual about today's execution. 
He hadn't worked before that big 
a crowd for years. The Federal 
Bureau of Internal Tranquility 
should be happy about this one! 

Jacques sighed, still struggling 
against the despondency that had 
been within him since the vacation 
interlude with the brunette govern- 
ment worker in Curagao had ended 
as unsatisfactorily as all the rest. 
Someday it would be his body 
bleeding in the dust, smashed at last 
by the soft-nosed bullets from Le 
Pistolet du Mort. Then the flowers 
and adulation would go to the con- 
demned man, and the Bureau 
would add his name to the plaque 
at the base of the towering statue 
on the Washington Mall. So be it. 
He had played a long roll of the 
dice, and the stakes had been high. 
But if only once, just once before it 
ended . . . 

The bell on his instrument panel 
told him that the servo-pilot in the 
tower below had taken over for the 
landing. He sniffed with disgust 
again, but this time the disgust was 
for himself. God, but he was in a 
foul humor today! He released the 
controls and stared at his strong 
hands, grimly admiring them. 
There was still speed as well as 
strength in these fingers. His lips 
twisted into a thin smile, cold and 

34 



confident. Whoever he was to meet 
at joute a I'outrance, let him try to 
match twenty years of training and 
skill! 

His rocket cradled with scarcely 
a jar into the small landing space 
at the north end of the arena, be- 
tween the two replicas of 15th 
century towers, reproduced so faith- 
fully by 22nd century technicians. 
Jacques squeezed his huge frame 
through the door of the small craft 
and looked dourly around. A squire, 
in scarlet leggings and tunic, his 
long black wig slightly askew, came 
running toward him and knelt three 
paces away, as prescribed by the^ 
Judicial Code of Heraldry. 

"Oh, sire!" he panted, "Thanks 
be that ye have arrived! The hour 
is well past noonday, and we had 
begun to fear . . ." 

"Time enough," Jacques 
growled. He gestured impatiendy, 
and the squire clambered to his 
feet, bowing again. 

"This way, your Lordship!" 

The squire led him to the lower 
room in the north tower. It was the 
usual room of monastic simplicity 
— whitewashed stone walls, a single 
window, two wooden benches and a 
low couch on which his garments 
for the occasion had been careful- 
ly arrayed. After the execution, he 
would be moved to his black silk 
tent in the center of the camping 
grounds. 

While the squire fluttered around 
him, eager to be of help, Jacques 
removed his short-sleeved dacron 
shirt, kicked off his sandals and 
stepped out of the comfortable 
shorts he always wore for traveling. 
The squire gaped with awe at the 

FRANK RILEY 



sight of his muscular body. 

"M'Lord, truly thou art a power- 
ful man!" 

Jacques looked down at him with 
mixed contempt and amusement. 
The squire was a thin, pale little 
man, with the pinched look of 
nearsightedness about his eyes. His 
wig and tunic were much too big 
for him. 

"What do you do. Squire?" Jac- 
ques inquired, not unkindly. 

The man looked hurt, as if the 
question reflected somehow on his 
ability to serve as a squire to the 
Lord High Executioner. 

"Computer development," he 
muttered. "Resonating pentode cir- 
cuits." Then he drew himself up 
defensively, with not a little pride. 
"But I placed at the top of the list 
in the Bureau's test for squires!" 

"That's fine," Jacques com- 
mented drily. "Now hurry, let's see 
what you learned ..." 

"Dress him handsomely, Squire!" 
boomed a taunting voice from the 
doorway. "Our Lord High Execu- 
tioner faces a rare challenge this 
day!" 

Jacques recognized the voice of 
Guy de Archambault, the Court 
BailiflF, whose bilious nose he in- 
tended to grind into the dust one of 
these fine days. But his anger at the 
Bailiff's intrusion was overbalanced 
by curiosity. 

"What's all the excitement 
about?" he demanded. "Who's on 
the docket, anyway?" 

The Bailiff grinned mockingly. 

"Forsooth, M'Lord, restrain thy 
impatience! In the Court's good 
time wilt ye learn . . ." 

"Oh, knock off that drivel, will 

TH£ EXECUTIONER 



you! Court's not in session yet . . ." 

The Bailiffs huge belly shook 
with laughter. 

"Have it your own way, Jacques, 
m'boy! But in any vernacular the 
meaning's the same — you're in for 
quite a surprise, if rumor has it 
right!" 

"Out with it, then! I can see 
you've been waiting to tell me." 

The grin broadened on the Bail- 
iff's puffy lips. 

"You can bet your last sou on 
that! It would have broken my 
heart not to be the first to tell 
you . . ." 

Jacques took a threatening stej- 
toward him. 

"I'll break more than your heart 
if you don't answer my question 

"Patience, pa — Oh, all right!" 
the Bailiff hastily interrupted him- 
self as Jacques took another step 
in his direction. "You've got a 
woman to shoot down this time — 
and that's just half the story!" 

Jacques' craggy features hard- 
ened into immobility. 

"What's the rest of it, fool?" 

"There's gossip going around 
that she's a page out of your past 
— maybe several pages, or even a 
whole chapter!" 

Jacques leaped the rest of the 
distance to the door' and grabbed 
the Bailiff by his lace collar, twist- 
ing it until his round, fat cheeks 
swelled and reddened. 

"Who is it?" 

"L-Lady Ann— of— Coberly!" 

Jacques thumped his head 
against the side of the doorway. 

"I told you to knock off that 
drivel." 

35 



"But— but that's all I know — 
I swear it! I just got here this 
morning, too, and took a quick 
peek at the calendar when I heard 
all the rumors out among the 
tents . . .!" 

Jacques shoved him out into the 
hallway, and stalked back into the 
room. The Bailiff straightened his 
collar, but made no move to leave. 

"M'Lord," he jibed, breathing 
heavily, "there's also a rumor that 
you have no stomach for executing 
any woman. Can that be true?" 

Jacques only scowled in reply, 
but he knew that this rumor, at 
least, was true. The last woman 
had been back in the Fifth Judicial 
District. A flint-faced murderess 
with the shoulders of a man. But 
the horror of firing the coup du 
mort into her naked, contorted 
body still came back to haunt his 
dreams. For weeks afterwards he 
hadn't been able to touch the 
women who came so eagerly to his 
tent during the wild execution 
night Festivals. 

The BailifFs coarse voice con- 
tinued to prod at him: 

"I'm sure you'll remember this 
one, once you see her! I've just 
come from watching her being 
dressed for Court!" The Bailiff's 
bloodshot right eye winked sug- 
gestively. "My duty, y'know, to 
protect their Judicial Highnesses by 
checking for concealed weapons." 

"Get out of here!" 

The Bailiff fell back a step, but 
continued talking. 

"I'd say she's your type all right 
— full of fire! Too bad you have 
to kill her instead of . . ." 

Jacques ripped the white tunic 

36 



from his squire's trembling hands 
and hurled it into the Bailiff's face. 
Guy de Archambault waddled back 
out of danger, then finding that he 
was not followed, poked his head 
around the edge of the door. 

"Prithee, Sir Jacques, have ye 
any message for their Judicial 
Highnesses?" 

"Yes, damn you! Tell them to 
get someone else for this infernal 
execution — and be quick about it!" 

With a gleeful chuckle, the Bail- 
iff disappeared again. The little 
squire picked up the white tunic 
and brushed it off dejectedly. If he 
missed this opportunity to serve as 
squire to the Lord High Execu- 
tioner, his name would rotate to the 
bottom of the list and he might not 
have a chance to serve again before 
it was time to make up new lists. 

Jacques strode to the window. 
Lady Ann of Coberly. The name 
could mean anything or nothing, 
according to the whimsy of the 
lower courts. Lady Ann. . . Arm! 
But it couldn't be her — Or could 
it? Jacques looked far down the 
years to a youngster just out of 
training, eager to prove himself in 
the execution arena. There had 
been an Ann then, and she had left 
one morning taking a young man's 
heart with her, leaving behind only 
the unfathomable look of reproach 
and disappointment that he had 
come since to know so well. 

But it couldn't be that Ann! He 
tried to create the image of her 
face, but saw only the acres of 
spectator tents, their bright pen- 
nants snapping in the wind, and 
the open squares teeming with 
spectacular costumes copied from 

FRANK RILEY 



medieval history books by an atom- 
ic age which found in the pageant- 
ry of execution-day its one escape 
from safe, sanitized, prescribed liv- 
ing. The Arthurian song of a stroll- 
ing minstrel drifted up to him. . . 

"To the fairest of all maidens. 

To Argante, the Queen, most 
beauteous elf, 

She will make my wounds all 
sound. 

And with a healing draught 
make me full well. . ." 

Jacques clenched his great fists. 
No, he wouldn't do it. Seniority en- 
titled him to some consideration. If 
necessary, he'd put a call through 
to the Bureau. They'd understand. 
His record was good. He'd always 
performed faithfully, meeting death 
every session, dealing it out to 
young and old alike. 

But not to a woman; certainly 
not to a woman who might have 
meant a great deal to him! During 
the long spartan years of his train- 
ing, the isolated years of monastic 
living at a time when youth burned 
strongest in him, the image of wom- 
an had become a haunting dream, 
unreal as the moonlight streaming 
through his curtainless window, un- 
touchable as the mist of a summer 
morning. A sense of that image and 
unreality still persisted, even after 
all the women who had come to 
him so willingly and had left with 
that undefinable look of unhap- 
piness deep in their eyes. 

Since that woman back in the 
Fifth District, he'd been lucky with 
his executions. Not too many wom- 
en drew the death penalty, and the 
few times women had been on his 
docket he had learned of it suffi- 

THE EXECUTIONER 



ciently in advance to pretend illness 
or make up some plausible excuse 
for emergency leave. But today had 
taken him totally by surprise. 

The squire shuffled up behind 
him, and begged, 

"Please, your Lordship, shall we 
not don these garments now?" 

Jacques shook his head so im- 
patiently that the squire scurried 
back in fright. 

And then the Bailiff's voice in- 
toned sonorously from the door- 
way: 

"His Highness, Chief Justice of 
the Seventh Judicial District!" 

Jacques turned in time to see the 
Bailiff bow low. The Chief Justice 
entered with a swish of ceremonial 
robes. He was followed by a tall, 
thin man, dressed in knightly cos- 
tume. The Bailiff made a second 
bow, and spoke again: 

"His Excellency, Sir Mallory, 
representing the Federal Bureau of 
Internal Tranquility!" 

Jacques felt suddenly relieved. It 
was good to have someone from 
his own Bureau here. These judges 
were too cold, too impersonal. 

The Chief Justice was carrying 
his wig, which was not yet fully 
powdered. His heavy jowls quivered 
with indignation. 

"What's this nonsense. Sir Jac- 
ques?" he demanded imperiously. 
"Court is ready to convene — We 
have no time to get another ex- 
ecutioner!" 

"I'm sorry, your Highness, but I 
must ask your indulgence this one 
time." 

"Impossible!" 

Sir Mallory stepped forward and 
smiled in a conciliatory manner. 

37 



"Perhaps Sir Jacques does not 
understand all the circumstances," 
he said soothingly. "You see, Sir 
Jacques, this execution is very im- 
portant to FBIT. There hasn't 
been a first-rate execution in nearly 
three years, and this is the only re- 
lease we've had to offer the public 
in all that time. Of course, the 
Court still must decide in its own 
wisdom whether there are any 
grounds for setting aside the ver- 
dict, but we would not want any of 
our Bureau personnel to be re- 
sponsible for disappointing the pub- 
lic." 

"I've always done my duty," 
Jacques protested. "But this one 
time — " 

"The FBIT is well aware of your 
splendid record," Sir Mallory in- 
terrupted, striking a hearty note of 
sincerity. "Your services have been 
deeply appreciated in these diffi- 
cult times. Yet, we must always 
take the long view! Particularly 
'this one time', as you say. Tech- 
nology has rushed us into a world 
without need for strife or conflict, 
but man has not yet matured 
enough for such a world — and he 
needs release to prevent dangerous 
explosions. Believe me. Sir Jacques, 
it would not be wise to postpone 
today's execution!" 

The Chief Justice cleared his 
throat angrily. 

"And it's not wise to stand here 
talking while my court is waiting 
to convene," he snapped "Sir Mal- 
lory, can't you remind this man of 
his oath, his duty, and be done 
with it?" 

Jacques felt his own anger rising. 

"I know my oath," he growled, 

38 



"but—" 

"Of course, of course, "mur- 
mured Sir Mallory, "and the FBIT 
shares your feelings. We also de- 
plore — naturally — the idle gossip 
that is circulating to build such in- 
terest in this execution. But cir- 
cumstances are beyond our control. 
Sir Jacques. As public servants, we 
must serve . . ." 

The Chief Justice shook his wig 
in Jacques' face. 

"Your answer, man! "he de- 
manded. "Are you or are you not 
going to perform your duty?" 

Sir Mallory stepped back, spread- 
ing out his hands as if to show 
Jacques there was nothing more he 
could do about it. 

Jacques stood tautly erect, im- 
passive, while his mind reeled on a 
hairline balance between defiance 
and submission. He knew that more 
than this one issue would be de- 
cided by his next words. His entire 
professional life was involved, 
everything he had trained and 
fought for since he had been select- 
ed for the service at the age of 
thirteen. A wrong word, and he 
could be dismissed by the Bureau. 
The rest of his years would be spent 
in a cubicle in some atom-powered 
plant, where he'd have his own 
button to push for two hours every 
day. The monotony would be in- 
tolerable after the way he had 
lived ! 

But to send his bullets smashing 
into the body of a woman who 
might be Ann . . . Sweat trickled 
down the chiseled furrows of his 
cheeks. Beside him, the little squire 
was a study in still life, poised with 
one foot forward, the white tunic 

FRANK RILEY 



still draped on his outstretched 
arm. 

"Sir Jacques, we are waiting for 
your reply," prompted the cold 
voice of the Chief Justice. 

A turbulent voice within Jacques 
urged him to turn his back on all 
of them, but prudence counseled 
that he play for time. From Sir 
Mallory's oily manner, he could 
very well have made up and cir- 
culated the gossip about his sup- 
posed past relationship with this 
condemned woman. It might be 
wise to wait a bit before making a 
decision that could be so final. 

Jacques bowed, and said hoarse- 

"I await the orders of the Court, 
Your Highness." 

If the Chief Justice noted that 
Jacques said "await" instead of the 
more correct "will obey", he gave 
no sign of it. 

"Very well," he said. "Court 
will convene in five minutes." He 
turned so abruptly that he almost 
bumped into the Bailiff, who was 
making a poor effort to cover his 
disappointment. 

Sir Mallory smiled at Jacques, 
and said warmly: 

"The FBIT is proud of you!" 

When they had left the room, 
the still frightened squire stuttered : 

"S-shall we d-dress. Sire?" 

Jacques walked without answer- 
ing to the couch and sat down on 
the edge of it. 

"Get a move on!" he ordered. 
His feelings were in turmoil: He 
was desperately eager to see this 
Lady Ann, yet he dreaded the mo- 
ment. If this was the Ann . . . 

Fingers trembling, the squire 

tHE EXECUTIONER 



anointed each muscular shoulder 
with three drops of perfumed oil, 
after which he drew over Jacques' 
head and upper body the white 
tunic — white to symbolize the puri- 
ty of motive in entering the ex- 
ecution arena. Next came the black 
breeches and hose — black for the 
eternal remembrance of death. 
Over the tunic came the flaming 
red jupon, blazoned on the sleeves 
with gules and on the back with a 
lion rampant argent. On his left 
shoulder, the squire fixed a lace of 
white silk, representing a deed not 
yet accomplished. Following the ex- 
ecution, a woman who had won the 
honor in her plant lottery would 
cut it off. 

After lacing on Jacques' boots, 
the squire stepped back, snatching 
an instant to admire his handiwork. 

"Well done, Squire," said Jac- 
ques. "Now, let's be off!" 

The squire flushed and beamed 
in gratitude. He picked up the sil- 
ver case containing the two Pis- 
tolet du Mort, one for Jacques, one 
for the condemned person. 

Court was on a portable plat- 
form in the center of the Judicial 
Arena. As soon as the execution 
was confirmed, it would be wheeled 
out of the way. 

When Jacques stepped from the 
tunnel and strode toward the plat- 
form, an abrupt hush choked off 
the babbling and laughter in the 
stands. Most of the hundred thou- 
sand capacity crowd was already 
seated. Behind Jacques, the squire 
straightened his narrow shoulders 
with pride. This was the highpoint 
in a life spent among the tapes, 

39 



circuits and feedback problems of 
computer research. 

Jacques mounted the platform, 
bowed to the crowd and took his 
seat in the black-draped, carved 
oak chair to the left of the Bailiff. 
His squire stood proudly behind 
him. The Bailiff murmured : 

"An imposing entrance for one 
who had only five minutes to dress! 
Your fair victim isn't here yet." 

Jacques stonily ignored him. 

An explosive cry from the stands 
brought the Bailiff to his feet. 

"Here she comes!" he announced 
with a grin of anticipation. "Take 
a good look. Sir Jacques — it's worth 
while!" 

Though it was the hardest thing 
he had ever done, Jacques re- 
frained from looking until the wom- 
an and her two jailers had nearly 
reached the platform steps. 

And then he looked straight at 
her, and the shock of it was a phys- 
ical blow. This was Ann, all right. 
Even after all the years there was 
no doubt about it. She was as tall 
as he remembered her, and there 
was the same softness and warmth 
in the curve of her sun-brown 
shoulders. He suddenly felt the old 
ache for her. 

She held a velvet robe around 
her shoulders, but she held it loose- 
ly, disdainfully. Under it, she was 
already dressed in the translucent 
death gown. Her thick, blond hair, 
much longer than the fashion of 
the day, fell nearly to her shoulders. 
On her feet were the silver sandals 
she would later remove, along with 
the velvet robe, just before step- 
ping up on the pedestal in the ex- 
ecution circle. 

40 



The two jailers, each in skull cap 
and long black sleeveless robe, led 
her to the prisoner's bench below 
the dais where the judges would 
sit. The sight of her was a torment 
to Jacques, the ripping open of an 
old scar. He knew that in a mo- 
ment their eyes would meet, but 
there was not enough strength in 
the corded muscles of his neck to 
turn his face away. 

Time had been kind to her, 
Jacques thought in one comer of 
his numbed brain. There were 
signs of its passing, around her 
mouth and her eyes, but it had 
given her what youth could not. 
There was a knowing in the curve 
of her lips, and he wondered what 
her eyes would tell him now. 

But she glanced first, with some 
amusement, at the two jailers, who 
held their crooked staffs at the alert 
position. Next, her eyes contempt- 
uously swept the semi-circle of emp- 
ty judicial chairs. They passed by 
the Bailiff so quickly that he looked 
cheated, and then they stopped 
full on Jacques. 

He read in their calm appraisal 
the knowledge that she had ex- 
pected him to be here, and that she 
was not surprised at what the years 
had done to him. Perhaps she had 
seen his pictures in the faxpapers, 
or even watched some of his ex- 
ecutions. But he wanted to know 
more than this, and he tried to 
look deeper into the light and 
shadows of her eyes. 

It was still there, he discovered, 
feeling a selfish sense of pleasure 
that she had not found what he 
hadn't been able to give her. The 
endless seeking, the search for some- 

FRANK RILEY 



thing never put into words, the 
want unfulfilled — all this was still 
there. 

He knew that she was reading 
him in the same way, but he could 
not tell what she found. Finally, it 
was she who looked away first, not 
in retreat, rather to appraise him 
thoughtfully. He felt her eyes on 
the knotted muscles of his cheeks, 
on his arms, on the whitened 
knuckles of his scarred hands, on 
his boots, now grey with dust from 
the walk across the arena. When 
her eyes came back to his, her un- 
painted lips parted in a faint smile. 

She knows, thought Jacques. She 
knows I don't want to kill her! And 
then the torment in him became 
unbearable. What irony that out of 
all the years of their lives they 
should come back together at this 
moment. An impulse tugged at him 
to snatch his pistols from the 
squire's silver box and try to take 
her from the arena, daring any to 
stop them. 

Then he realized that the Bailiff 
was standing again, that the hun- 
dred thousand spectators were surg- 
ing to their feet. Trumpet fanfare 
blasted from the main tunnel, sig- 
nalling the arrival of the judges. 
Instinct brought Jacques to his 
feet. Ann remained seated, and 
rose only after the jailers nudged 
her with their curved staffs. 

"Oyez, oyez, oyez!" cried the 
Bailiff into a microphone concealed 
in a carved boar's head. " 'Tis now 
two of the clock at aftir noone, and 
yon heralds bearing trumpets of 
devise give in knowledge unto all 
gentilmen, ladyes and gentilwoom- 
en the cooming of this high and 

THE EXECUTIONER 



most honourable court! Remain at 
standing until said court is seated!" 

The Chief Justice, regally stern, 
led the procession of judges, clerks 
and pages across the arena. They 
mounted the platform, stepping in 
cadence. When the robed and be- 
wigged judges were all seated, the 
Bailiff raised his staff and the crowd 
settled down with a buzz of antic- 
ipation. High atop one of the 
north towers, hidden cameras 
picked up the scene and vidcast it 
around the earth, and to the satel- 
lites and lonely planet outposts. 

One of the clerks picked up five 
rolls of parchment, untied the scar- 
let ribbon on each, and passed 
them around to the judges. The 
Chief Justice went through the pre- 
text of scanning his, then nodded 
to the Bailiff to present the pris- 
oner. 

With a sly wink at Jacques, the 
Bailiff took Ann firmly by the arm 
and guided her three steps forward. 
The Chief Justice coughed the 
nervousness from his throat, and 
asked : 

"Is this the Lady Ann of Cober- 
ly?" 

Before the Bailiff could make the 
correct response, Ann gave her own 
impatient answer. 

"I am Badge No. 7462883, Tran- 
sistor Division, Coberly precision 
Products, Ltd." 

The Chief Justice frowned at 
this breach of court etiquette. 

"Have ye not been properly in- 
structed?" 

Ann shrugged, and the loose robe 
slipped lower on her shoulders. 

"I suppose so, but is it necessary 
to waste all this time? You've got 

41 



the record in front of you!" 

The judges exchanged significant 
glances, and a delicious shudder 
swept through the stands. Jacques 
felt time running out on him. At 
best the chances of a reprieve for 
any prisoner were small, and in 
face of Ann's attitude . . . 

The Chief Justice's expression 
congealed into judicial impassive- 
ness. 

"Ye are charged with taking the 
life of a man," he began solemnly. 

"That's not true!" Ann inter- 
rupted. 

Her unexpected words brought 
a startled gasp from the spectators. 
The judges leaned forward alertly. 

"According to the evidence . . ." 
the Chief Justice began again. 

"He wasn't a man!" Ann cried 
scornfully. Her glance flickered 
across at Jacques. "There are no 
more men." 

Ponderously, like a slow moving 
river that would not be diverted 
from its course, the Chief Justice 
returned to the facts of the case: 

"Ye speak in riddles, Lady Ann! 
The evidence makes it full clear 
that the victim was a man . . ." 

"Evidence!" Ann gestured to- 
ward the breathless stands. "There 
is your evidence! Ask those women 
what they are doing here! Ask 
them what their great, great grand- 
mothers were doing at the ancient 
wrestling matches!! Ask them if 
they have ever known a real man — 
or ask your own wives!" 

The Chief Justice's impassive- 
ness was shattered. His cheeks 
puffed out indignantly. A strange, 
tense silence gripped the women in 
the stands; the men drew back 

42 



their padded shoulders, and shout- 
ed in reproof : 

"Shame! For shame. Lady Ann!" 

"Why don't you ask them?" Ann 
persisted. 

Yes, ask them, Jacques thought, 
with a sudden, overpowering anger 
of his own. Ask them ! Maybe their 
answers would tell why he, too, of 
all men, should have failed so many 
of them. 

"Hold thy insolent tongue, wom- 
an!" roared the Chief Justice. 
"There remains before this Court 
only one issue — -Did ye or did ye 
not strike a man to his death in the 
full view of scores of gentilmen and 
gentilwoomcn of Coberly?" 

Ann shook her long hair in de- 
fiance. 

"It wasn't a man I struck with 
that casing, and all the FIBT's 
heraldic mockery can't make him a 
man! I struck a bloodless slide-rule, 
a cold filing cabinet full of equa- 
tions, a set of dull geometric pat- 
terns, an automaton that tried to 
treat a woman like a punched hol- 
rith card! He was no more a man 
than this. . ." She brought her el- 
bow up so sharply that the paunchy 
Bailiff was toppled off balance and 
nearly fell. He looked frightened. 

"Ye admit to the killing, then?" 
demanded the Chief Justice. 

"Fm proud of it!" 

"And ye claim no special cir- 
cumstances?" 

"How would you understand 
them?" 

The crowd exploded into a fran- 
tic, unintelligible babble, and the 
Chief Justice slammed down his 
gavel. He turned to his fellow 
judges. Two were staring at the 

FRANK RILEY 



prisoner with an indignation that 
exceeded his own. The other two, 
both very old men, sat with heads 
bowed and hands fumbling with 
their robes. 

Jacques felt his pulse leap with a 
hope that had seemed impossible. 
Could it be that after all. . .? Ann 
turned toward him, faltering for 
the first time, and they stared into 
each other's eyes. 

At a curt nod from the Chief 
Justice, the Bailiff, still trembling, 
began to poll the Court. 

The first two judges angrily 
raised their hands to signify that 
they were voting to uphold the 
death sentence of the lower court. 
The third judge hesitated, then 
held out both hands, palms down. 

This brought an outburst of ap- 
plause from the stands. The first 
palms-down vote always evoked 
such a demonstration, for a one- 
sided execution was a comparative- 
ly dull affair. 

But the applause was choked off 
as the fourth judge slowly extended 
both hands, palms down. A scat- 
tering of boos and catcalls started. 
An ugly undercurrent rippled close 
to the surface. Was this woman 
going to win a reversal, in spite of 
all her insolence? If she did, the 
whole holiday would be spoiled, 
since there were no other execu- 
tions on the docket. Better to have 
stayed home and watched films of 
old executions on the FBIT's 
nightly vidcast! 

Jacques looked away from Ann 
to watch the Chief Justice. The 
lines in Jacques' face were like 
gouges in a metal casting. 

Acutely aware of his role, the 

THE EXECUTIONER 



Chief Justice stood up and drew 
his robe about him with great dig- 
nity, taking care to face toward the 
TV cameras on the north tower. 

And as the Bailiff called for his 
deciding vote, the Chief Justice 
solemnly raised his right hand. 

Three to two for death! A hun- 
dred thousand spectators leaped to 
their feet, hysterically waving their 
arms. Three shots for the Lord 
High Executioner! Two for Lady 
Ann! What a day this was going to 
be after all! Here was a truly great 
joute a I'outrance! Ann swayed a 
little, then smiled. Jacques closed 
his eyes. 

Ritual and habit took over where 
Jacques' will could not function. 
His squire stepped forward, opened 
the silver box and offered the Pis- 
tolets du Mort to the Bailiff. The 
weapons sparkled in the sunlight. 
They were a modern adaptation of 
an ancient design, and had become 
official death weapons after earlier 
experiments had convinced the 
FBIT that few 22nd century men 
were strong enough to handle the 
swords and lances of chivalry. The 
Bailiff loaded one gun with two 
shells, the other with three. Then 
he replaced both in the silver box, 
closed the lid and put the box on 
the bench in front of the Chief 
Justice. 

Already the judicial platform 
was wheeled to one side of the 
arena; the twin pedestals were be- 
ing rolled to position in the ex- 
ecution circle. They were thirty 
inches high, and were positioned 
precisely sixty feet apart, each on 
a line with the open ends of the 
stands so that wild shots would not 

43 



strike a spectator. 

Next came the Ceremony of Con- 
frontation, intended to symbolize 
that the Lord High Executioner 
was acting only under the compul- 
sion of duty, without malice or any 
base motive. 

Moving mechanically, Jacques 
stepped toward Ann. The jailers 
crossed their staffs two paces in 
front of her. It was the closest 
Jacques would be permitted to ap- 
proach until the Ceremony of the 
Spirit, when he would kneel beside 
her shattered body in the dust of 
the arena. He also was supposed to 
kneel now, and silently speak a 
prayer for both their souls. He 
knelt, but could not bow his head. 
Ann looked down at him, and the 
faint, unfathomable smile returned 
to her lips. 

"It's all right," she said softly. 
"You don't have to speak to me 
with words." 

The natural, warm scent of her 
body came through the fragrance of 
the oils with which she had been 
anointed in her death cell. It was 
a remembered scent that once 
again drove Jacques to the brink 
of madness. 

Her voice, husky and steadying, 
came down to him: 

"For two like us there is no other 
way, Jacques. Don't fail me again." 

He rose stiffly, backing away, 
staring into the mystery of the 
lights and shadows in her wide 
eyes, groping for the meaning of 
her words. 

A friar moved up to take his 
place, and the jailers dropped their 
staffs. But Ann dismissed the friar 
with a quick shake of her head. 

44 



The Code now called for Jacques 
to leave the platform and walk with 
measured steps around the arena 
before mounting his pedestal in the 
execution circle. A signal from the 
trumpets started him on his way 
before he was aware of what he 
was doing. The habits of a thou- 
sand executions demanded obe- 
dience. 

Women in the front rows leaned 
far over the railing. Some reached 
their hands down to him, offering 
flowers and kerchiefs, hoarsely beg- 
ging him to wear their favors dur- 
ing the execution. Others sat still, 
transfixed, lips parted and moist. 
The men beside them shrank back 
in their seats, looking at him as a 
sparrow would look at a coiled 
snake. Vendors of ribbands and 
souvenirs, cakes and drink, stood 
silent as he passed before them. 
The flutes, citterns and cymbals, 
the melodic voices of the minstrels, 
picked up the brooding death 
chanson : 

"Farewell my friends, the tyde 
abideth no man, 

I am departed from hence, and 
so shall ye; 

But in this passage the best songe 
that I can 

Is requiem eternam. . ." 

The walk around the arena was 
an eternity, and then it was over 
and done with, and he had mount- 
ed his pedestal. 

A low crescendo, like the roll of 
faraway surf, swept across the 
stands. Ann was at the edge of the 
platform. She stepped out of her 
slippers, unfastened the velvet robe, 
handed it to one of the jailers. The 

FRANK RILEY 



crescendo grew, matching the surge 
of blood in Jacques' temples. A 
breeze swept the translucent death 
gown tight against her bare body, 
and she walked steadily down the 
steps, across the arena. Her feet 
stirred little puffs of grey dust that 
twisted and whirled away. The 
friar followed a few paces behind. 
At the pedestal, he offered her his 
hand. She refused it, stepped up 
without assistance. Bowing his 
head, the friar walked back to the 
judge's platform. 

Jacques' squire and a page boy 
appeared almost immediately. They 
walked part way across the arena 
together. Each bore one of the 
pistols on a black satin pillow. At 
the edge of the execution circle, 
their paths forked toward each of 
the pedestals. The trembling page 
offered Ann her pistol first. 

"Do ye remember your instruc- 
tions?" he asked in a quavering 
voice that was picked up for the 
vidcast by the microphone hung 
under his frock. 

"Yes, thank you." 

Ann held the pistol loosely at her 
side, and looked toward Jacques, 
across the abyss of sixty feet. 

With frozen fingers, Jacques ac- 
cepted the other pistol from his 
squire, and knew that he was out 
beyond the point of no returning. 

But he did not, could not, know 
what he would do once the signal 
for the execution was given. "Do 
not fail me again," Ann had plead- 
ed. But what had she meant? Even 
at this final moment her smOe was 
as enigmatic as ever. 

The page and the squire retreat- 
ed to their stations at the side of 

THE EXECUTIONER 



the arena, this time moving hastily. 

The Bailiff raised his black staff 
and pennant, held it poised until 
the Chief Justice nodded, then 
lowered it with a flourish. A trum- 
pet sounded one high, clear note. 

The signal had been given. 

Jacques remained motionless, 
waiting for a sign from Ann. But 
she, too, waited, her chin slightly 
lifted. What was she waiting for? 
What did she expect from him? 

In the stands, the breathing of a 
hundred thousand people was a 
rasping sound. 

And then Ann moved, so quickly 
that the surprise was complete. Her 
pistol flashed up, fired while still in 
its arc. The bullet blasted the air 
beside Jacques' ear, so close that 
for a fraction of a second he 
thought he had been hit. 

Ann's voice drifted across to him, 
across the stunned silence, and it 
contained both a taunt and a plea : 

"I won't miss next time, 
Jacques!" 

And he knew she would not. He 
had seen too many guns fired not 
to recognize technique. If she had 
learned to shoot that well, there 
was no doubt she could have hit 
him the first time. 

Jacques still couldn't fathom her 
motive, but there was no longer 
any chance to consider it. His con- 
scious mind wanted to let her fire 
again, to put an end to this ter- 
rible dream. But the instinct of 
self-preservation was too strong; 
the lessons at the FBIT academy 
had been taught too well. Numb- 
ness went out of liim, and he 
watched her eyes for the telltale 
(Continued on page 114) 

45 



LIFE HUTCH 



There was no way out. Death 



in the form of a robot had 



come to live with him. He 



was going to die. Unless . . . 



BY HARLAN ELLISON 



Illustrated by Ed Emsh 



TERRENGE SLID his right 
hand, the one out of sight of 
the robot, up his side. The razoring 
pain of the three broken ribs caused 
his eyes to widen momentarily in 
pain. 

// the eyeballs click, I'm dead, 
thought Terrence. 

The intricate murmurings of the 
Hfe hutch around him brought back 
the immediacy of his situation. His 
eyes again fastened on the medicine 
cabinet clamped to the wall next to 
the robot's duty-niche. 

Cliche. So near yet so far. It 
could be all the way back on. An- 
tares-Base for all the good it's doing 
me, he thought, and a crazy laugh 
trembled on his lips. He caught 
himself just in time. Easy! Three 
days is a nightmare, but cracking 
up will only make it end sooner. 

He flexed the fingers of his right 
hand. It was all he could move. 
Silently he damned the technician 
who had passed the robot through. 
Or the politician who had let in- 
ferior robots get placed in the life 
hutches so he could get a rake-off 
from the government contract. Or 
the repairman who hadn't bothered 
checking closely his last time 
around. All of them; he damned 
them all. 

They deserved it, 

He was dying. 

He let his eyes close completely, 
let the sounds of the life hutch 
fade from around him. Slowly the 
sound of the coolants hush-hushing 
through the wall-pipes, the relay 
machines feeding without pause 
their messages from all over the 
Galaxy, the whirr of the antenna's 
standard turning in its socket atop 



46 



the bubble, slowly they melted into 
silence. He had resorted to blocking 
himself ofT from reality many times 
during the past three days. It was 
either that or existing with the 
robot watching, and eventually he 
would have had to move. To move 



was to die. It was that simple. 

He closed his ears to the whisper- 
ings of the life hutch; he listened to 
the whisperings within himself. 

To his mind came the sounds of 
war, across the gulf of space. It was 
all imagination, yet he could clear- 




47 



ly detect the hiss of his scout's blast- 
er as it poured beam after beam 
into the lead ship of the Kyben 
fleet. 

His sniper-class scout had been 
near the face of that deadly Terran 
phalanx, driving like a wedge at the 
alien ships, converging on them in 
loose battle-formation. It was then 
it had happened. 

One moment he had been head- 
ing into the middle of the battle, 
the left flank of the giant Kyben 
dreadnaught turning crimson under 
the impact of his firepower. 

The next moment, he had skit- 
tered out of the formation which 
had slowed to let the Kyben craft 
come in closer, while the Earthmen 
decelerated to pick up maneuver- 
ability. 

He had gone on at the old level 
and velocity, directly into the for- 
ward guns of a toadstool-shaped 
Kyben destroyer. 

The first beam had burned the 
gun-mounts and directional equip- 
ment off the front of the ship, 
scorching down the aft side in a 
smear like oxidized chrome plate. 
He had managed to avoid the sec- 
ond beam. 

His radio contact had been brief; 
he was going to make it back to 
Antares-Base if he could. If not, 
the formation would be listening 
for his homing-beam from a life 
hutch on whatever planetoid he 
might find for a crash-landing. 

Which was what he had done. 
The charts had said the pebble 
spinning there was technically 
1-333, 2-A, M & S, 3-804.39#, 
which would have meant nothing 
but three-dimensional co-ordinates, 

48 



had not the small # after the data 
indicated a life hutch somewhere 
on its surface. 

His distaste for being knocked 
out of the fighting, being forced 
onto one of the life hutch planet- 
oids, had been offset only by his 
fear of running out of fuel before 
he could locate himself. Of even- 
tually drifting off into space some- 
where, to finally wind up as an 
artificial satellite around some 
minor sun. 

The ship pancaked in under 
minimal reverse drive, bounced 
high and skittered along, tearing 
out chunks of the rear section; but 
had come to rest a scant two miles 
from the life hutch, jammed into 
the rocks. 

Terrence had high-leaped the 
two miles across the empty, airless 
planetoid to the hermetically-sealed 
bubble in the rocks. His primary 
wish was to set the hutch's beacon 
signal so his returning fleet could 
track him. 

He had let himself into the de- 
compression chamber, palmed the 
switch through his thick spacesuit 
glove, and finally removed his hel- 
met as he heard the air whistle into 
the chamber. 

He had pulled off his gloves, 
opened the inner door and entered 
the life hutch itself. 

God bless you, little life hutch, 
Terrence had thought as he 
dropped the helmet and gloves. He 
had glanced around, noting the re- 
lay machines, picking up messages 
from outside, sorting them, vector- 
ing them off in other directions. He 
had seen the medicine chest 
clamped onto the wall, the refriger- 

HARLAN ELLISON 



ator he knew would be well-stocked 
if a previous tenant hadn't been 
there before the stockman could re- 
fill it. He had seen the all-purpose 
robot, immobile in its duty-niche. 
And the wall-chronometer, its face 
smashed. All of it in a second's 
glance. 

God bless, too, the gentlemen 
who thought up the idea of these 
little rescue stations, stuck all over 
the place for just such emergencies 
as this. He had started to walk 
across the room. 

It was at this point that the serv- 
ice robot, who kept the place in re- 
pair between tenants and unloaded 
supplies from the ships, had moved 
clankingly across the floor, and 
with one fearful smash of a steel 
arm thrown Terrence across the 
room. 

The spaceman had been brought 
up short against the steel bulkhead, 
pain blossoming in his back, his 
side, his arms and legs. The ma- 
chine's blow had instantly broken 
three of his ribs. He lay there for a 
moment, unable to move. For a few 
seconds he was too stunned to 
breathe, and it had been that, per- 
haps, that had saved his life. His 
pain had immobilized him, and in 
that short space of time the robot 
had retreated, with a muted in- 
ternal clash of gears, to its niche. 

He had attempted to sit up 
straight, and the robot had 
hummed oddly and begun to move. 
He had stopped the movement. The 
robot had settled back. 

Twice more had convinced him 
his position was as bad as he had 
thought. 

The robot had worn down some- 

LIFE HUTCH 



where in its printed circuits. Its 
commands distorted so that now 
it was conditioned to smash, to hit, 
anything that moved. 

He had seen the clock. He real- 
ized he should have suspected some- 
thing was wrong when he saw its 
smashed face. Of course ! The hands 
had moved, the robot had smashed 
the clock. Terrence had moved, the 
robot had smashed him. 

And would again, if he moved 
again. 

But for the unnoticeable move- 
ment of his eyelids, he had not 
moved in three days. 

He had tried moving toward the 
decompression lock, stopping when 
the robot advanced and letting it 
settle back, then moving again, a 
little nearer. But the idea died with 
his first movement. The agonizing 
pain of the crushed ribs made such 
maneuvering impossible. He was 
frozen into position, an uncomfort- 
able, twisted position, and he would 
be there till the stalemate ended, 
one way or the other. 

He was twelve feet away from 
the communications panel, twelve 
feet away from the beacon that 
would guide his rescuers to him. 
Before he died of his wounds, be- 
fore he starved to death, before the 
robot crushed him. It could have 
been twelve light-years, for all the 
difference it made. 

What had gone wrong with the 
robot? Time to think was cheap. 
The robot could detect movement, 
but thinking was still possible. Not 
that it could help, but it was pos- 
sible. 

The companies who supplied the 
life hutch's needs were aJl govern- 

49 



ment contracted. Somewhere along 
the line someone had thrown in 
impure steel or calibrated the cir- 
cuit-cutting machines for a less ex- 
pensive job. Somewhere along the 
line someone had not run the robot 
through its paces correctly. Some- 
where along the line someone had 
committed murder. 

He opened his eyes again. Only 
the barest fraction of opening. Any 
more and the robot would sense 
the movement of his eyelids. That 
would be fatal. 

He looked at the machine. 

It was not, strictly speaking, a 
robot. It was merely a remote-con- 
trolled hunk of jointed steel, in- 
valuable for making beds, stacking 
steel plating, watching culture 
dishes, unloading spaceships and 
sucking dirt from rugs. The robot 
body, roughly humanoid, but with- 
out what would have been a head 
in a human, was merely an ap- 
pendage. 

The real brain, a complex maze 
of plastic screens and printed cir- 
cuits, was behind the wall. It would 
have been too dangerous to install 
those delicate parts in a heavy-duty 
mechanism. It was all too easy for 
the robot to drop itself from a load- 
ing shaft, or be hit by a meteorite, 
or get caught under a wrecked 
spaceship. So there were sensitive 
units in the robot appendage that 
"saw" and "heard" what was going 
on, and relayed them to the brain 
— behind the wall. 

And somewhere along the line 
that brain had worn grooves too 
deeply into its circuits. It was now 
mad. Not mad in any way a human 
being might go mad, for there were 

50 



an infinite number of ways a ma- 
chine could go insane. Just mad 
enough to kill Terrence. 

Even if I could hit the robot 
with something, it wouldn't stop 
the thing. He could perhaps throw 
something at the machine before it 
could get to him, but it would do 
no good. The robot brain would 
still be intact, and the appendage 
would continue to function. It was 
hopeless. 

He stared at the massive hands 
of the robot. It seemed he could 
see his own blood on the jointed 
work-tool fingers of one hand. He 
knew it must be his imagination, 
but the idea persisted. He flexed 
the fingers of his hidden hand. 

Three days had left him weak 
and dizzy from hunger. His head 
was light and his eyes burned 
steadily. He had been lying in his 
own filth till he no longer noticed 
the discomfort. His side ached and 
throbbed, the pain like a hot spear 
thrust into him every time he 
breathed. 

He thanked God his spacesuit 
was still on, else his breathing 
would have brought the robot down 
on him. There was only one solu- 
tion, and that solution was his 
death. 

Terrence had never been a cow- 
ard, nor had he been a hero. He 
was one of the men who fight wars 
because they must be fought by 
someone. He was the kind of man 
who would allow himself to be torn 
from wife and home and flung into 
an abyss they called Space because 
of something else they called Loy- 
alty and another they called Pa- 

HARLAN ELLISON 



triotism. To defend what he had 
been told needed defense. But it 
was in moments like this that a 
man like Terrence began to think. 

Why here? Why like this? What 
have I done that I should finish in 
a filthy spacesuit on a lost rock — 
and not gloriously but starving or 
bleeding to death alone with a 
crazy robot? Why me? Why me? 
Why? 

He knew there could be no an- 
swers. He expected no answers. 

He was not disappointed. 



WHEN HE awoke, he instinc- 
tively looked at the clock. Its 
shattered face looked back at him, 
jarring him, forcing his eyes open 
in after-sleep terror. The robot 
hummed and emitted a spark. He 
kept his eyes open. The humming 
ceased. His eyes began to burn. He 
knew he couldn't keep them open 
too long. 

The burning worked its way to 
the front of his eyes, from the top 
and bottom, bringing with it tears. 
It felt as though someone were 
shoving needles into the soft orbs. 
The tears ran down over his cheeks. 

His eyes snapped shut. The roar- 
ing grew in his ears. The robot 
didn't make a sound. 

Could it he inoperative? Could 
it have worn down to immobility? 
Could he take the chance of ex- 
perimenting? 

He slid down to a more com- 
fortable position. The robot 
charged forward the instant he 
moved. He froze in mid-movement, 
his heart a lump of snow. The 
robot stopped, confused, a scant 

LIFE HUTCH 



ten inches from his outstretched 
foot. The machine hummed to it- 
self, the noise of it coming both 
from the machine before him and 
from somewhere behind the wall. 

He was suddenly alert. 

If it had been working correctly, 
there would have been little or no 
sound from the appendage, and 
none whatsoever from the brain. 
But it was not working properly, 
and the sound of its thinking was 
distinct. 

The robot rolled backward, its 
"eyes" still toward Terrence. The 
sense orbs of the machine were in 
the torso, giving the machine the 
look of a squat gargoyle of metal, 
squared and deadly. 

The humming was growing loud- 
er, every now and then a sharp 
pfffft! of sparks mixed with it. Ter- 
rence had a moment's horror at 
the thought of a short-circuit, a 
fire in the life hutch, and no service 
robot to put it out. 

He listened carefully to figure 
out where the robot's brain was 
built into the wall. 

Then he thought he had it. Or 
was it there? It was either in the 
wall behind a bulkhead next to the 
refrigerator, or behind a bulkhead 
near the relay machines. The two 
possible housings were within a few 
feet of each other, but it might 
make a great deal of difference. 

The distortion created by the 
steel plate in front of the brain, 
and the distracting background 
noise of the robot broadcasting it 
made it difficult to tell exactly 
which was it. 

He drew a deep breath. 

The ribs slid a fraction of an 

51 



inch together, their broken ends 
grinding. 

He moaned. 

A high-pitched tortured moan 
that died quickly, but throbbed 
back and forth inside his head, 
echoing and building itself into a 
paen of sheer agony! It forced his 
tongue out of his mouth, limp in a 
corner of his lips, moving slightly. 
The robot rolled forward. He drew 
his tongue in, clamped his mouth 
shut, cut off the scream inside his 
head at its high point! 

The robot stopped, rolled back 
to its duty-niche. 

Beads of sweat broke out on his 
body. He could feel them trickling 
inside his spacesuit, inside his jump- 
er, inside the undershirt, on his 
skin. The pain of the ribs was sud- 
denly heightened by an irresistible 
itching. 

He moved an infinitesimal bit 
within the suit, his outer appear- 
ance giving no indication of the 
movement. The itching did not 
subside. The more he tried to make 
it stop, the more he thought about 
not thinking about it, the worse it 
became. His armpits, the bends of 
his arms, his thighs where the tight 
service-pants clung — suddenly too 
tightly — were madness. He had to 
scratch! 

He almost started to make the 
movement. He stopped before he 
started. He knew he would never 
live to enjoy any relief. A laugh 
bubbled into his head. God Al- 
mighty, and I always laughed at 
the joes who suffered with the 
seven-year itch, the ones who al- 
ways did a little dance when they 
were at attention during inspection, 

52 



the ones who could scratch and sigh 
contentedly. God, how I envy them. 

The prickling did not stop. He 
twisted faintly. It got worse. He 
took another deep breath. 

The ribs sandpapered again. 

This time he fainted from the 
pain. 

"Well, Terrence, how do you 
like your first look at a Kyben?" 

Ernie Terrence wrinkled his 
forehead and ran a finger up the 
side of his face. He looked at his 
Commander and shrugged. "Fan- 
tastic things, aren't they?" 

"Why fantastic?" asked Com- 
mander Foley. 

"Because they're just like us. Ex- 
cept of course the bright yellow 
pigmentation and the tentacle-fin- 
gers. Other than that they're iden- 
tical to a human being." 

The Commander opaqued the 
examination-casket and drew a 
cigarette from a silver case, offer- 
ing the Lieutenant one. He puffed 
it alight, staring with one eye 
closed against the smoke, at the 
younger man beside him. "More 
than that, I'm afraid. Their insides 
look like someone had taken them 
out, liberally mixed them with 
spare parts from several other 
species, and thrown them back in 
any way that fitted conveniently. 
For the next twenty years we'll be 
knocking our heads together trying 
to figure out how they exist." 

Terrence grunted, rolling his un- 
lit cigarette absently between two 
fingers. "That's the least of it." 

"You're right," agreed the Com- 
mander. "For the next thousand 
years we'll be trying to figure out 

HARLAN ELLISON 



how they think, why they fight, 
what it takes to get along with 
them, what motivates them." 

If they let us live that long 
thought Terrence. 

"Why are we at war with the 
Kyben?" he asked the older man. 
"I mean really." 

"Because the Kyben want to kill 
every human being that can real- 
ize he's a human being." 

"What have they got against us?" 

"Does it matter? Perhaps it's be- 
cause our skin isn't bright yellow; 
perhaps it's because our fingers 
aren't silken and flexible; perhaps 
it's because our cities are too noisy 
for them. Perhaps a lot of perhaps. 
But it doesn't matter. Survival 
never matters until you have to 
survive." 

Terrence nodded. He under- 
stood. So did the Kyben. It grinned 
at him and drew its blaster. It fired 
point-blank, crimsoning the hull of 
the Kyben ship. 

He swerved to avoid running 
into his gun's own backlash. The 
movement of the bucket seat sliding 
in its tracks to keep his vision steady 
while maneuvering made him dizzy. 

The abyss was nearer, and he 
teetered, his lips whitening as they 
pressed together under his effort to 
steady himself. With a headlong 
gasp he fell sighing into the stom- 
ach. His long, silken fingers jointed 
steely humming clankingly toward 
the medicine chest over the plate 
behind the bulkhead. 

The robot advanced on him 
grindingly. Small fine bits of metal 
rubbed together, ashing away into 
a breeze that came from nowhere 
as the machine raised lead boots 

LIFE HUTCH 



toward his face. 

Onward and onward till he had 
no room to move. 

The light came on, bright, bright- 
er than any star Terrence had ever 
seen, glowing, broiling, flickering, 
shining, bobbing a ball of light on 
the chest of the robot, who stag- 
gered, stumbled, stopped. 

The robot hissed, hummed and 
exploded into a million flying, rac- 
ing, fragments, shooting beams of 
light all over the abyss over which 
Terrence teetered. He flailed his 
arms back trying to escape at the 
last moment, before the fall. 

He saved himself only by his sub- 
conscious. Even in the hell of a 
nightmare he was aware of the 
situation. He had not moaned and 
writhed in his delirium. He had 
kept motionless and silent. 

He knew this was true, because 
he was still alive. 

Only his surprised jerking, as he 
came back to consciousness started 
the monster rolling from its niche. 
He came fully awake and sat silent, 
slumped against the wall. The robot 
retreated. 

Thin breath came through his 
nostrils. Another moment and he 
would have put an end to the past 
three days — three days or more 
now? how long had he been asleep? 
— of torture. 

He was hungry. Lord how hun- 
gry he was. The pain in his side 
was worse now, a steady throbbing 
that made even shallow breathing 
tortuous. He itched maddeningly. 
He was uncomfortably slouched 
against a cold steel bulkhead, every 
rivet having made a burrow for it- 

53 



self in his skin. He wished he were 
dead. 

He didn't wish he was dead. It 
was all too easy to get his wish. 

If he could only disable that 
robot brain. A total impossibility. 
If he could only wear Phobos and 
Deimos for watchfobs. If he could 
only shack-up with a silicon-deb 
from Penares. If he could only use 
his large colon for a lasso. 

It would take a total wrecking 
of the brain to do it enough damage 
to stop the appendage before it 
could roll over and smash Ter- 
rence again. 

With a steel bulkhead between 
him and the brain, his chances of 
success totaled minus zero every 
time. 

He considered which part of his 
body the robot would smash first. 
One blow of that tool-hand would 
kill him if it were used a second 
time. On top of the ribs, even a 
strong breath might finish him. 

Perhaps he could make a break 
and get into the air chamber . . . 

Worthless. A) The robot would 
catch him before he had gotten to 
his feet, in his present condition. 
B) Even allowing for a miracle, if 
he did get in there, the robot would 
smash the lock doors, letting in air, 
ruining the mechanism. C) Even 
allowing for a double miracle what 
the hell good would it do him? His 
helmet and gloves were in the 
hutch itself, and there was no place 
to go on the planetoid. The ship 
was ruined, so no signal could be 
sent from there. 

Doom suddenly compounded it- 
self. 

The more he thought about it, 

54 



the more certain he was that soon 
the light would flicker out for him. 

The light would flicker out. 

The light would flicker . . . 

The light . . . 

. . .light . . .? 

His God, if he had had anything 
to do with it, had heard him. Ter- 
rence was by no means a religious 
man, but this was miracle enough 
to make even him a disciple. It 
wasn't over yet, but the answer was 
there — and it was an answer. 

He began to save himself. 

Slowly, achingly slowly, he 
moved his right hand, the hand 
away from the robot's sight, to his 
belt. On the belt hung the assorted 
implements a spaceman needs at 
any moment in his ship. A wrench. 
A packet of sleep-stavers. A com- 
pass. A geiger counter. A flashlight. 

The last was the miracle. Miracle 
in a tube. 

He fingered it almost reverently, 
then undipped it in a moment's 
frenzy, still immobile to the robot's 
"eyes." 

He held it at his side, away from 
his body by a fraction of an inch, 
pointing up over the bulge of his 
spacesuited leg. 

If the robot looked at him, all 
it would see would be the motion- 
less bulk of his leg, blocking off any 
movement on his part. To the ma- 
chine, he was inert. Motionless. 

Now he thought wildly, where is 
the brain? 

If it is behind the relay machines, 
I'm still dead. If it is near the re- 
frigerator, I'm saved. He could 
afford to take no chances. He would 
have to move. 

HARLAN ELLISON 



He lifted one leg. 

The robot moved toward him. 
The humming and sparking was 
distinct this time. He dropped the 
leg. 

Behind the plates above the re- 
frigerator! 

The robot stopped, nearly at his 
side. Seconds had decided. The 
robot hummed, sparked, and re- 
turned to its niche. 

Now he knew! 

He pressed the button. The in- 
visible beam of the flashlight 
leaped out, speared at the bulk- 
head above the refrigerator. He 
pressed the button again and again, 
the flat circle of light appearing, 
disappearing, appearing, disappear- 
ing on the faceless metal of the life 
hutch's wall. 

The robot sparked and rolled 
from its niche. It looked once at 
Terrence. Then its rollers changed 
direction and the machine ground 
toward the refrigerator. 

The steel fist swung in a vicious 



arc, smashing with a deafening 
clang at the spot where the light 
bubble flickered on and off. 

It swung again and again. Again 
and again till the bulkhead had 
been gouged and crushed and 
opened, and the delicate coils and 
plates and wires and tubes behind 
it were refuse and rubble. Until the 
robot froze, with arm half-ready 
to strike again. Dead. Immobile. 
Brain and appendage. 

Even then Terrence did not stop 
pressing the flashlight button. Wild- 
ly he thumbed it down and down. 

Suddenly he realized it was all 
over. 

The robot was dead. He was 
alive. He would be saved. He had 
no doubts about that. Now he 
could cry. 

The medicine chest grew large 
through the shimmering in his eyes. 
The relay machines smiled at him. 

God bless you, little life hutch, 
he thought, before he fainted. 



I EXCLUSIVE — in IF! 

I The Amazing- True Story of Americas 

I Space Satellite — as Revealed by 

I Eminent Men of Science! 

I FOR THE FIRST TIME eminent scientists give an authorita- 

I tive report on America's satellite program! . . . How will the 

I satellites function? What instruments will they carry? What in- 

I formation will they send back? What will it mean scientifically, 

1 politically, economically? . . . Get the answers in the first pub- 

I lished accounts — ^by scientists themselves — ^in IF Magazine. This 

i exclusive series begins in the June issue of IF. Don't miss it! 

i Reserve your copy now! 



LIFE HUTCH 




ATO 



DRIVE 



BY CHARLES FONTENAY 



It was a race between the tortoise and the hare. 



But this hare was using some dirty tricks to 



make sure the ending would be different . . . 




Illustrated by Ed Emsh 



THE TWO spaceship crews were 
friendly enemies, sitting across 
the table from each other for their 
last meal before blastoff. Outside 
the ports, the sky was nothing but 
light-streaked blackness, punctured 
periodically by Earth glare, for 
Space Station 2 whirled swiftly on 
its axis, creating an artificial grav- 
ity. 

"Jonner, I figured you the last 
man ever to desert the rockets for 
a hot-rod tow-job," chided Russo 
Baat, captain of the Mars Corpora- 
tion's gleaming new freighter, 
Marsward XVIII. Baat was fat 
and red-faced, and one of the 



shrewdest space captains in the 
business. 

Jonner Jons, at the other end of 
the table, inclined his grizzled head 
and smiled. 

"Times change, Russo," he an- 
swered quietly. "Even the Mars 
Corporation can't stop that." 

"Is it true that you're pulling 
five thousand tons of cargo. Cap- 
tain?" asked one of the crewmen 
of the Marsward XVIII. 

"Something like that," agreed 
Jonner, and his smile broadened. 
"And I have only about twice the 
fuel supply you carry for a 100-ton 
payload." 



57 



The communicator above them 
squawked and blared: 

"Captain Jons and Captain Baat 
of Martian competition run, please 
report to control for final briefing." 

"I knew it!" grumbled Baat, get- 
ting heavily and reluctantly to his 
feet. "I haven't gotten to finish a 
meal on this blasted merry-go- 
round yet." 

In the space station's control sec- 
tion. Commander Ortega of the 
Space Control Commission, an as- 
cetic officer in plain blues, looked 
them up and down severely, 

"As you know, gentlemen," he 
said, "blastoff time is 0600. Ton- 
nage of cargo, fuel and empty ves- 
sels carmot be a factor, under the 
law. The Mars Corporation will 
retain its exclusive franchise to the 
Earth-Mars run, unless the ship 
sponsored by the Atom-Star Com- 
pany returns to Earth with full 
cargo at least twenty hours ahead 
of the ship sponsored by the Mars 
Corporation. Cargo must be un- 
loaded at Mars and new cargo 
taken on. I do not consider the 
twenty-hour bias in favor of the 
Mars Corporation a fair one," said 
Ortega severely, turning his gaze 
to Baat, "but the Space Control 
Commission does not make the 
laws. It enforces them. Docking 
and loading facilities will be avail- 
able to both of you on an equal 
basis at Phobos and Marsport. 
Good luck." 

He shook hands with both of 
them. 

"Saturn, I'm glad to get out of 
there!" exclaimed Baat, mopping 
his brow as they left the control 
section. "Every time I take; a step, 

58 



I feel like I'm falling on my face." 

"It's because the control section's 
so close to the center," replied 
Jonner. "The station's spinning to 
maintain artificial gravity, and 
your feet are away from the center. 
As long as you're standing upright, 
the pull is straight up and down to 
you, but actually your feet are mov- 
ing faster than your head, in a 
larger orbit. When you try to move, 
as in normal gravity, your body 
swings out of that line of pull and 
you nearly fall. The best corrective, 
I've found, is to lean backward 
slightly when you start to walk." 

As the two space captains walked 
back toward the wardroom togeth- 
er, Baat said: 

"Jonner, I hear the Mars Cor- 
poration offered you the Marsward 
XVIII for this run first, and you 
turned them down. Why? You 
piloted the Marsward V and the 
Wayward Lady for Marscorp when 
those upstarts in the Argentine 
were trying to crack the Earth- 
Mars run. This Atom-Star couldn't 
have enough money to buy you 
away from Marscorp." 

"No, Marscorp offered me 
more," said Jonner, soberly now. 
"But this atomic drive is the future 
of space travel, Russo. Marscorp 
has it, but they're sitting on it be- 
cause they've got their fingers in 
hydrazine interests here, and the 
atom drive will make hydrazine use- 
less for space fuel. Unless I can 
break the franchise for Atom-Star, 
it may be a hundred years before 
we switch to the atom drive in 
space." 

"What the hell difference does 
that make to you?" asked Baat 

CHARLES FONTENAY 



bluntly. 

"Hydrazine's expensive," replied 
Joiiner. "Reaction mass isn't, and 
you use less of it. I was bom on 
Mars, Russo. Mars is my home, 
and I want to see my people get 
the supplies they need from Earth 
at a reasonable transport cost, not 
pay through the nose for every 
packet of vegetable seed." 

They reached the wardroom 
door. 

"Too bad I have to degrav my 
old chief," said Baat, chuckling. 
"But I'm a rocket man, myself, 
and I say to hell with your hot-rod 
atom drive. I'm sorry you got de- 
flected into this run, Jonner; you'll 
never break Marscorp's orbit." 

The Marsward XVIII was a 
huge vessel, the biggest the Mars 
Corporation ever had put into 
space. It was a collection of spheres 
and cylinders, joined together by 
a network of steel ties. Nearly 90% 
of its weight was fuel, for the one- 
way trip to Mars. 

Its competitor, the Radiant 
Hope, riding ten miles away in 
orbit around the Earth, was the 
strangest looking vessel ever to get 
clearance from a space station. It 
looked like a tug towing a barge. 
The tug was the atomic power 
plant. Two miles behind, attached 
by a thin cable, was the passenger 
compartment and cargo. 

On the control deck of the 
Radiant Hope, Jonner gripped a 
microphone and shouted profane 
instructions at the pilot of a squat 
ground-to-space rocket twenty miles 
away. T'an Li Cho, the ship's en- 
gineer, was peering out the port at 

ATOM DRIVE 



the speck of light toward which 
Jonner was directing his wrath, 
while Qoqol, the Martian astroga- 
tor, worked at his charts on the 
other side of the deck. 

"I thought all cargo was aboard, 
Jonner," said T'an. 

"It is," said Jonner, laying the 
mike aside. "That G-boat isn't 
hauling cargo. It's going with us. 
I'm not taking any chances on 
Marscorp refusing to ferry our 
cargo back and forth at Mars." 

"Is plotted, Jonner," boomed 
Qoqol, turning his head to peer 
at them with huge eyes through the 
spidery tangle of his thin, double- 
jointed arms and legs. He reached 
an eight-foot arm across the deck 
and handed Jonner his figures. Jon- 
ner gave them to T'an. 

"Figure out power for that one, 
T'an," ordered Jonner, and took 
his seat in the cushioned control 
chair. 

T'an pulled a slide rule from his 
tunic pocket, but his black almond 
eyes rested quizzically on Jonner. 

"It's four hours before blastoff," 
he reminded. 

"I've cleared power for this with 
Space Control," replied Jonner. 
"That planet-loving G-boat jockey 
missed orbit. We'll have to swing 
out a little and go to him." 

On a conventional space craft, 
the order for acceleration would 
have sent the engineer to the engine 
deck to watch his gauges and report 
by intercom. But the Radiant 
Hope's "engine deck" was the 
atomic tug two miles ahead, which 
T'an, in heavy armor, would enter 
only in emergencies. He calculated 
for a moment, then called softly 

59 



to Jonner: 

"Pile One, in ten." 

"In ten," confirmed Jonner, pull- 
ing a lever on the calibrated gauge 
of the radio control. 

"Pile Two, in fifteen." 

"In fifteen." 

"Check. I'll have the length of 
burst figured for you in a jiffy." 

A faint glow appeared around 
the atomic tug far ahead, and there 
was the faintest shiver in the ship. 
But after a moment, Qoqol said in 
a puzzled tone : 

"No Gs, Jonner. Engine not 
work?" 

"Sure, she's working," said Jon- 
ner with a grin. "You'll never get 
any more G than we've got now, 
Qoqol, all the way to Mars. Our 
maximum acceleration will be 1/3, 
OOOth-G." 

"One three-thousandth?" ex- 
claimed T'an, shaken out of his 
Oriental calm. "Jonner, the Mars- 
ward will blast away at one or two 
Gs. How do you expect to beat 
that at l/3,000th?" 

"Because they have to cut off 
and coast most of the way in an 
elliptic orbit, like any other rocket," 
answered Jonner calmly. "We drive 
straight across the system, under 
power all the time. We accelerate 
half way, decelerate the other half." 

"But 1 /3,000th!" 

"You'll be surprised at what con- 
stant power can do. I know Baat, 
and I know the trick he's going to 
use. It's obvious from the blastoff 
time they arranged. He's going to 
tack off the Moon and use his 
power right to cut 20 days off that 
regular 237-day schedule. But this 
tug-boat will make it in 154 days!" 

60 



They took aboard the 200-ton 
landing boat. By the time they got 
it secured, the radio already was 
sounding warnings for blastoff. 

Zero hour arrived. Again Jonner 
pulled levers and again the faint 
glow appeared around the tail of 
their distant tug. Across space the 
exhaust of the Marsward XVIII 
flared into blinding flame. In a mo- 
ment, it began to pull ahead visibly 
and soon was receding like a 
meteor. 

Near the Radiant Hope, the 
space station seemed not to have 
changed position at all. 

"The race is not always to the 
swift," remarked Jonner philo- 
sophically. 

"And we're the tortoise," said 
T'an. "How about filling us in on 
this jaunt, Jonner?" 

"Is should, Jonner," agreed 
Qoqol. "T'an know all about crazy 
new engine, I know all about crazy 
new orbit. Both not know all. You 
tell." 

"I planned to, anyway," said 
Jonner. "I had figured on having 
Serj in on it, but he wouldn't un- 
derstand much of it anyhow. 
There's no use in waking him up." 

Serj was the ship's doctor-psy- 
chologist and fourth member of the 
crew. He was asleep below on the 
centerdeck. 

"For your information, Qoqol," 
said Jonner, " the atomic engine 
produces electrical energy, which 
accelerates reaction mass. Actually, 
it's a crude ion engine. T'an can 
explain the details to you later, but 
the important thing is that the fuel 
is cheap, the fuel-to-cargo ratio is 
low and constant acceleration is 

CHARLES FONTENAY 



practical. 

"As for you, T'an, I was sur- 
prised at your not understanding 
why we'll use low acceleration. To 
boost the engine power and give us 
more Gs, we'd either have to carry 
more fuel or coast part of the way 
on momentum, like an ordinary 
rocket. This way's more efficient, 
and our 63-day margin over the 
Marsward each way is more than 
enough for unloading and loading 
more cargo and fuel." 

"With those figures, I can't see 
how Marscorp expects to win this 
competition," said T'an. 

"We've got them, flat, on the 
basis of performance," agreed Jon- 
ner. "So we'll have to watch 
for tricks. I know Marscorp. That's 
why I arranged to take aboard 
that G-boat at the last minute. 
Marscorp controls all the G-boats 
at Marsport, and they're smart 
enough to keep us from using them, 
in spite of the Space Control Com- 
mission. As for refueling for the 
return trip, we can knock a chunk 
off of Phobos for reaction mass." 

The meteor alarm bells clanged 
suddenly, and the screen lit up once 
with a fast-moving red line that 
traced the path of the approaching 
object. 

"Miss us about half a mile," said 
Jonner after a glance at the screen. 
"Must be pretty big . . . and it's 
coming up!" 

He and T'an floated to one of 
the ports, and in a few moments 
saw the object speed by. 

"That's no meteor!" exclaimed 
Jonner with a puzzled frown. 
"That's man-made. But it's too 
small for a G-boat." 

ATOM DRIVE 



The radio blared: "All craft in 
orbit near Space Station 2! Warn- 
ing! All craft near Space Station 
2! Experimental missile misfired 
from White Sands! Repeat: ex- 
perimental missile misfired from 
White Sands! Coordinates . . ." 

"Fine time to tell us," remarked 
T'an drily. 

"Experimental missile, hell!" 
snorted Jonner, comprehension 
dawning. "Qoqol, what would have 
happened if we hadn't shifted orbit 
to take aboard that G-boat?" 

Qoqol calculated a moment. 

"Hit our engines," he announced. 
"Dead center." 

Jonner' s blue eyes clouded omi- 
nously. "Looks like they're playing 
for keeps this time, boys." 



THE BROTHERHOOD of 
spacemen is an exclusive club. 
Any captain, astrogator or engineer 
is likely to be well known to his 
colleagues, either personally or by 
reputation. 

The ship's doctor-psychologist is 
in a different category. Most of 
them sign on for a few runs for the 
adventure of it, as a means of get- 
ting back and forth between planets 
without paying the high cost of 
passage or to pick up even more 
money than they can get from luc- 
rative planetbound practice. 

Jonner did not know Serj, the 
Radiant Hope's doctor. Neither 
T'an nor Qoqol ever had heard of 
him. But Serj appeared to know his 
business well enough, and was 
friendly enough. 

It was Serj's first trip and he was 
very interested in the way the ship 

61 



operated. He nosed into every cor- 
ner of it and asked a hundred ques- 
tions a day. 

"You're as inquisitive as a cadet 
spaceman, Serj," Jonner told him 
on the twenty-fifth day out. Every- 
body knew everyone else well by 
then, which meant that Jonner and 
Qoqol, who had served together be- 
fore, had become acquainted with 
T'an and Serj. 

"There's a lot to see and learn 
about space. Captain," said Serj. 
He was a young fellow, with fair 
hair and an easy grin. "Think I 
could go outside?" 

"If you keep a lifeline hooked on. 
The suits have magnetic shoes to 
hold you to the hull of the ship, 
but you can lose your footing." 

"Thanks," said Serj. He touched 
his hand to his forehead and left 
the control deck. 

Jonner, near the end of his eight- 
hour duty shift, watched the dials. 

The red light showing the inner 
airlock door was open bhnked on. 
It blinked off, then the outer air- 
lock indicator went on, and off. 

A shadow fell across Jonner 
briefly. He glanced at the port and 
reached for the microphone. 

"Careful and don't step on any 
of the ports," he warned Serj. "The 
magnetic soles won't hold on them." 

"I'll be careful, sir," answered 
Serj. 

No one but a veteran spaceman 
would have noticed the faint quiver 
that ran through the ship, but Jon- 
ner felt it. Automatically, he swung 
his control chair and his eyes swept 
the bank of dials. 

At first he saw nothing. The 
outer lock light blinked on and off, 

62 



then the inner lock indicator. That 
was Serj coming back inside. 

Then Jonner noted that the hand 
on one dial rested on zero. Above 
the dial was the word: "ACCEL- 
ERATION." 

His eyes snapped to the radio 
controls. The atomic pile levers 
were still at their proper calibra- 
tion. The dials above them said the 
engines were working properly. 

The atomic tug was still accel- 
erating, but passengers and cargo 
were in free fall. 

Swearing Jonner jerked at the 
levers to pull out the piles aboard 
the tug. 

A blue flash flared across the 
control board, momentarily blind- 
ing him. Jonner recoiled, only his 
webbed safety belt preventing him 
from plummeting from the control 
chair. 

He swung back anxiously to the 
dials, brushing futilely at the spots 
that swam before his eyes. He 
breathed a sigh of relief. The radio 
controls had operated. The atomic 
engines had ceased firing. 

Tentatively, cautiously, he re- 
versed the lever. There was no 
blue flash this time, but neither did 
the dials quiver. He swore. Some- 
thing had burned out in the radio 
controls. He couldn't reverse the 
tug. 

He punched the general alarm 
button viciously, and the raucous 
clangor of the bell sounded through 
the confines of the ship. One by 
one, the other crew members 
popped up to the control deck 
from below. 

He turned the controls over to 
Qoqol. 

CHARLES FONTENAY 



"Take readings on that damn 
tug," Jonner ordered. "I think our 
cable broke. T'an, let's go take a 
look." 

When they got outside, they 
found about a foot of the one-inch 
cable still attached to the ship. The 
rest of it, drawn away by the tug 
before Jonner could cut accelera- 
tion, was out of sight. 

"Can it be welded, T'an?" 

"It can, but it'll take a while," 
replied the engineer slowly. "First, 
we'll have to reverse that tug and 
get the other end of that break." 

"Damn, and the radio control's 
burned out. I tried to reverse it be- 
fore I sounded the alarm. T'an, 
how fast can you get those controls 
repaired?" 

"Great space!" exclaimed T'an 
softly. "Without seeing it, I'd say 
at least two days, Jonner. Those 
controls are complicated as hell." 

They re-entered the ship. Qoqol 
was working at his diagrams, and 
Serj was looking over his shoulder. 
Jonner took a heat-gun quietly 
from the rack and pointed it at 
Serj. 

"You'll get below, mister," he 
commanded grimly. You'll be hand- 
cuffed to your bunk from here on 
out." 

"Sir?. . . I don't understand," 
stammered Serj. 

"Like hell you don't. You cut 
that cable," Jonner accused. 

Serj started to shrug, but he 
dropped his eyes. 

"They paid me," he said in a low 
tone. "They paid me a thousand 
solars." 

"What good would a thousand 
solars do you when you're dead, 

ATOM DRIVE 



Serj . . . dead of suffocation and 
drifting forever in space?" 

Serj looked up in astonishment. 

"Why, you can still reach Earth 
by radio, easy," he said. "It 
wouldn't take long for a rescue 
ship to reach us." 

"Chemical rockets have their 
limitations, "said Jonner coldly. 

"And you don't realize what 
speed we've built up with steady 
acceleration. We'd head straight out 
of the system, and nothing could 
intercept us, if that tug had gotten 
too far before we noticed it was 
gone." 

He jabbed the white-faced doc- 
tor with the muzzle of the heat- 
gun. 

"Get below," he ordered. "I'll 
turn you over to Space Control at 
Mars." 

When Serj had left the control 
deck, Jonner turned to the others. 
His face was grave. 

"That tug picked up speed be- 
fore I could shut off the engines, 
after the cable was cut," he said. 
"It's moving away from us slowly, 
and at a tangent. And solar grav- 
ity's acting on both bodies now. By 
the time we get those controls re- 
paired, the drift may be such that 
we'll waste weeks maneuvering the 
the tug back." 

"I could jet out to the tug in a 
spacesuit, before it gets too far 
away," said T'an thoughtfully. "But 
that wouldn't do any good. There's 
no way of controlling the engines, 
at the tug. It has to be done by 
radio." 

"If we get out of this, remind me 
to recommend that atomic ships 
always carry a spare cable," said 

63 



Jonner gloomily. "If we had one, 
we could splice them and hold the 
ship to the tug until the controls 
are repaired." 

"Is cable in cargo strong enough, 
Jonner?" asked Qoqol. 

"That's right!" exclaimed Jon- 
ner, brightening. "Most of our car- 
go's cable! That 4,000- ton spool 
we're hauling back there is 6,000 
miles of cable to lay a television 
network between the Martian 
cities." 

"Television cable?" repeated 
T'an doubtfully. "Will that be 
strong enough?" 

"It's bound in flonite, that new 
fluorine compound. It's strong 
enough to tow this whole cargo 
at a couple of Gs. There's nothing 
aboard this ship that would cut off 
a length of it — a heat-gun at full 
power wouldn't even scorch it — but 
we can unwind enough of it, and 
block the spool. It'll hold the ship 
to the tug until the controls can be 
repaired, then we can reverse the 
tug and weld the cable." 

"You mean the whole 6,000 miles 
of it's in one piece?" demanded 
T'an in astonishment. 

"That's not so much. The cable- 
laying steamer Dominia carried 
3,000 miles in one piece to lay 
Atlantic cables in the early 20th 
century." 

"But how'll we ever get 4,000 
tons in one piece down to Mars?" 
asked T'an. "No G-boat can carry 
that load." 

Jonner chuckled. 

"Same way they got it up from 
Earth to the ship," he answered. 
"They attached one end of it to a 
G-boat and sent it up to orbit, 

64 



then wound it up on a fast winch. 
Since the G-boat will be decelerat- 
ing to Mars, the unwinding will 
have to be slowed or the cable 
would tangle itself all over Syrtis." 

"Sounds like it's made to order," 
said T'an, grinning. "I'll get into 
my spacesuit." 

"You'll get to work on the radio 
controls," contradicted Jonner, get- 
ting up. "That's something I can't 
do, and I can get into a spacesuit 
and haul a length of cable out to 
the tug. Qoqol can handle the 
winch." 



DEVEET, THE Atom-Star 
Company's representative at 
Mars City, and Kruger of the Space 
Control Commission were waiting 
when the Radiant Hope's G-boat 
dropped down from the Phobos sta- 
tion and came to rest in a wash of 
jets. They rode out to the G-boat 
together in a Commission ground- 
car. Jonner emerged from the G- 
boat, following the handcuffed 
Serj. 

"He's all yours," Jonner told 
Kruger, gesturing at Serj. "You 
have my radio reports on the cable- 
cutting, and I'll make my log avail- 
able to you." 

Kruger put his prisoner in the 
front seat of the groundcar beside 
him, and Jonner climbed in the 
back seat with Deveet. 

"I brought the crates of dies for 
the groundcar factory down this 
time," Jonner told Deveet. "We'll 
bring down all the loose cargo be- 
fore shooting the television cable 
down. While they're unloading the 
G-boat, I wish you'd get the tanks 

CHARLES FONTENAY 



refilled with hydrazine and nitric 
acid. I've got enough to get back 
up, but not enough for a round 
trip." 

"What do you plan to do?" 
asked Deveet. He was a dark- 
skinned, long-faced man with a 
sardonic twist to his mouth. 

"I've got to sign on a new ship's 
doctor to replace Serj. When the 
Marsward comes in, Marscorp will 
have a dozen G-boats working 
round the clock to unload and re- 
load her. With only one G-boat, 
we've got to make every hour 
count. We still have reaction mass 
to pick up on Phobos." 

"Right," agreed Deveet. "You 
can take the return cargo up in one 
load, though. It's just twenty tons 
of Martian relics for the Solar Mu- 
seum. Mars-to-Earth cargos run 
light." 

At the administration building, 
Jonner took his leave of Deveet and 
went up to the Space Control Com- 
mission's personnel office on the 
second floor. He was in luck. On 
the board as applying for a Mars- 
Earth run as ship's doctor-psychol- 
ogist was one name: Lana Elden. 

He looked up the name in the 
Mars City directory and dialed into 
the city from a nearby telephone 
booth. A woman's voice answered. 

"Is Lana Elden there?" asked 
Jonner. 

"I'm Lana Elden," she said. 

Jonner swore under his breath. 
A woman ! But if she weren't quali- 
fied, her name would not have been 
on the Commission board. 

The verbal contract was made 
quickly, and Jonner cut the Com- 
mission monitor into the line to 

ATOM DRIVE 



make it binding. That was done 
often when rival ships, even of the 
same line, were bidding for the 
services of crewmen. 

"Blastoff time is 2100 tonight," 
he said, ending the interview. "Be 
here." 

Jonner left the personnel office 
and walked down the hall. At the 
elevator, Deveet and Kruger hur- 
ried out, almost colliding with him. 

"Jonner, we've run into trouble!" 
exclaimed Deveet. "Space Fuels 
won't sell us any hydrazine and 
nitric acid to refill the tanks. They 
say they have a new contract with 
Marscorp that takes all their sup- 
ply." 

"Contract, hell!" snorted Jon- 
ner. "Marscorp owns Space Fuels. 
What can be done about it, Kru- 
ger?" 

Kruger shook his head. 

"I'm all for you, but Space Con- 
trol has no jurisdiction," he said. 
"If a private firm wants to restrict 
its sales to a franchised line, there's 
nothing we can do about it. If you 
had a franchise, we could force 
them to allot fuel on the basis of 
cargo handled, since Space Fuels 
has a monopoly here. But you don't 
have a franchise yet." 

Jonner scratched his grey head 
thoughtfully. 

It was a serious situation. The 
atom-powered Radiant Hope could 
no more make a planetary landing 
than the chemically-powered ships. 
Its power gave a low, sustained 
thrust that permitted it to accel- 
erate constantly over long periods 
of time. To beat the powerful pull 
of planetary surface gravity, the 
terrific burst of quick energy from 

65 



the streamlined G-boats, the plane- 
tary landing craft, was needed. 

"We can still handle it," Jonner 
said at last. "With only twenty tons 
return cargo, we can take it up 
this trip. Add some large para- 
chutes to that, Deveet. We'll shoot 
the end of the cable down by signal 
rocket, out in the lowlands, and 
stop the winch when we've made 
contact, long enough to attach the 
rest of the cargo to the cable. Pull 
it down with the cable and, with 
Mars' low gravity, the parachutes 
will keep it from being damaged." 

But when Jonner got back to the 
landing field to check on unload- 
ing operations, his plan was 
smashed. As he approached the G- 
boat, a mechanic wearing an ill- 
concealed smirk came up to him. 

"Captain, looks like you sprung 
a leak in your fuel line," he said. 
"All your hydrazine's leaked out in 
the sand." 

Jonner swung from the waist 
and knocked the man flat. Then he 
turned on his heel and went back 
to the administration building to 
pay the 10-credit fine he would be 
assessed for assaulting a spaceport 
employe. 

The Space Control Commission's 
hearing room in Mars City was al- 
most empty. The examiner sat on 
the bench, resting his chin on his 
hand as he listened to testimony. 
In the plaintiff's section sat Jonner, 
flanked by Deveet and Lana Elden. 
In the defense box were the Mars 
Corporation attorney and Captain 
Russo Baat of the Marsward 
XV III. Kruger, seated near the 
rear of the room, was the only 

66 



spectator. 

The Mars Corporation attorney 
had succeeded in delaying the final 
hearing more than a 42-day Mar- 
tian month by legal maneuvers. 
Meanwhile, the Marsward XVIIl 
had blasted down to Phobos, and 
G-boats had been shuttling back 
and forth unloading the vessel and 
reloading it for the return trip to 
Earth. 

When testimony had been com- 
pleted, the examiner shuffled 
through his papers. He put on his 
spectacles and peered over them at 
the litigants. 

"It is the ruling of this court," 
he said formally, "that the plain- 
tiffs have not presented sufficient 
evidence to prove tampering with 
the fuel line of the G-boat of the 
spaceship Radiant Hope. There is 
no evidence that it was cut or 
burned, but only that it was broken. 
The court must remind the plain- 
tiffs that this could have been done 
accidentally, through inept hand- 
ling of cargo. 

"Since the plaintiffs have not 
been able to prove their contention, 
this court of complaint has no al- 
ternative than to dismiss the case. 

The examiner arose and left the 
hearing room. Baat waddled across 
the aisle, pufiing. 

"Too bad, Jonner," he said. "I 
don't like the stuff Marscorp's pull- 
ing, and I think you know I don't 
have anything to do with it. 

"I want to win, but I want to 
win fair and square. If there's any- 
thing I can do to help . . ." 

"Haven't got a spare G-boat in 
your pocket, have you?" retorted 
Jonner, with a rueful smile. 

CHARLES FONTENAY 



Baat pulled at his jowls. 

"The Marsward isn't carrying 
G-boats," he said regretfully. "They 
all belong to the port, and Mars- 
corp's got them so tied up you'll 
never get a sniflf of one. But if you 
want to get back to your ship, Jon- 
ner, I can take you up to Phobos 
with me, as my guest." 

Jonner shook his head. 

"I figure on taking the Radiant 
Hope back to Earth," he said. "But 
I'm not blasting off without cargo 
until it's too late for me to beat 
you on the run." 

"You sure? This'll be my last 
ferry trip. The Marsward blasts 
off for Earth at 0300 tomorrow." 

"No, thanks, Russo. But I will 
appreciate your taking my ship's 
doctor, Dr. Elden, up to Phobos." 

"Done!" agreed Baat. "Let's go. 
Dr. Elden. The G-boat leaves Mars- 
port in two hours." 

Jonner watched Baat puff away, 
with the slender, white-clad bru- 
nette at his side. Baat personally 
would see Lana Elden safely aboard 
the Radiant Hope, even if it de- 
layed his own blastoff. 

Morosely, he left the hearing 
room with Deveet. 

"What I can't understand," said 
the latter, "is why all this dirty 
work, why didn't Marscorp just use 
one of their atom-drive ships for 
the competition run?"' 

"Because whatever ship is used 
on a competition run has to be kept 
in service on the franchised run," 
answered Jonner. "Marscorp has 
millions tied up in hydrazine in- 
terests, and they're more interested 
in keeping an atomic ship off this 
run than they are in a monopoly 

ATOM DRIVE 



franchise. But they tie in together: 
if Marscorp loses the monopoly 
franchise and Atom-Star puts in 
atom-drive ships, Marscorp will 
have to switch to atom-drive to 
meet the competition." 

"If we had a franchise, we could 
force Space Fuels to sell us hydra- 
zine," said Deveet unhappily. 

"Well, we don't. And, at this 
rate, we'll never get one." 



JONNER AND Deveet were fish- 
ing at the Mars City Recrea- 
tion Center. It had been several 
weeks since the Marsward XVIII 
blasted off to Earth with a full 
cargo. And still the atomic ship 
Radiant Hope rested on Phobos 
with most of her Marsbound cargo 
still aboard; and still her crew 
languished at the Phobos space 
station; and still Jonner moved 
back and forth between Mars City 
and Marsport daily, racking his 
brain for a solution that would not 
come. 

"How in space do you get twenty 
tons of cargo up to an orbit 5,800 
miles out, without any rocket fuel?" 
he demanded of Deveet more than 
once. He received no satisfactory 
answer. 

The Recreation Center was a 
two-acre park that lay beneath the 
plastic dome of Mars City. Above 
them they could see swift-moving 
Phobos and distant Deimos among 
the other stars that powdered the 
night. In the park around them, 
colonists rode the amusement ma- 
chines, canoed along the canal that 
twisted through the park or sipped 
refreshment at scattered tables. A 

67 



dozen or more satj like Jonner and 
Deveet, around the edge of the tiny 
lake, fishing. 

Deveet's line tightened. He 
pulled in a streamlined, flapping 
object from which the light glis- 
tened wetly. 

"Good catch," complimented 
Jonner. "That's worth a full cred- 
it." 

Deveet unhooked his catch and 
laid it on the bank beside him. It 
was a metal fish: live fish were un- 
known on Mars. They paid for the 
privilege of fishing for a certain 
time and any fish caught were 
"sold" back to the management at 
a fixed price, depending on size, to 
be put back into the lake. 

"You're pretty good at it," said 
Jonner. "That's your third tonight." 

"It's all in the speed at which 
you reel in your line," explained 
Deveet. "The fish move at pre-set 
speeds. They're made to turn and 
catch a hook that moves across 
their path at a slightly slower speed 
than they're swimming. The man- 
agement changes the speeds once a 
week to keep the fishermen from 
getting too expert." 

"You can't beat the manage- 
ment," chuckled Jonner. "But if it's 
a matter of matching orbital speeds 
to make contact, I ought to do 
pretty well when I get the hang of 
it." 

He cocked an eye up toward the 
transparent dome. Phobos had 
moved across the sky into Capri- 
corn since he last saw her. His 
memory automatically ticked off 
the satellite's orbital speed: 1.32 
miles a second; speed in relation to 
planetary motion . . . 

68 



Why go over that again? One 
had to have fuel first. Meanwhile, 
the Radiant Hope lay idle on 
Phobos and its crew whiled away 
the hours at the space station in- 
side the moon, their feet spinning 
faster than their heads . . . no, that 
wasn't true on Phobos, because it 
didn't have a spin to impart arti- 
ficial gravity, like the space stations 
around Earth. 

He sat up suddenly. Deveet 
looked at him in surprise. Jonner's 
lips moved silently for a moment, 
then he got to his feet. 

"Where can we use a radio- 
phone?" he asked. 

"One in my office," said Deveet, 
standing up. 

"Let's go. Quick, before Phobos 
sets." 

They turned in their rods, Deveet 
collecting the credits for his fish, 
and left the Recreation Center. 

When they reached the Atom- 
Star Company's Martian office 
Jonner plugged in the radiophone 
and called the Phobos space sta- 
tion. He got T'an. 

"All of you get aboard," Jonner 
ordered. "Then have Qoqol call 
me." 

He signed off and turned to 
Deveet. Can we charter a plane to 
haul our Earthbound cargo out of 
Marsport?" 

"A plane? I suppose so. Where 
do you want to haul it?" 

"Charax is as good as any other 
place. But I need a fast plane." 

"I think we can get it. Marscorp 
still controls all the airlines, but the 
Mars government keeps a pretty 
strict finger on their planetbound 
operations. They can't refuse a 

CHARLES FONTENAY 



cargo haul without good reason." 
"Just to play safe, have some 

friend of yours whom they don't 

know, charter the plane in his 

name. They won't know it's us till 

we start loading cargo." 

"Right," said Deveet, picking up 

the telephone. "I know just the 

man." 

Towmotors scuttled across the 
landing area at Marsport, shifting 
the cargo that had been destined 
for the Radiant Hope from the 
helpless G-boat to a jet cargo-plane. 
Nearby, watching the operation, 
were Jonner and Deveet, with the 
Marsport agent of Mars Air Trans- 
port Company. 

"We didn't know Atom-Star was 
the one chartering the plane until 
you ordered the G-boat cargo 
loaded on it," confessed the Mars- 
Air agent. 

"I see you and Mr. Deveet are 
signed up to accompany the cargo. 
You'll have to rent suits for the 
trip. We have to play it safe, and 
there's always the possibility of a 
forced landing." 

"There are a couple of space- 
suits aboard the G-boat that we 
want to take along," said Jonner 
casually. "We'll just wear those 
instead." 

"Okay." The agent spread his 
hands and shrugged. "Everybody 
at Marsport knows about you buck- 
ing Marscorp, Captain. What you 
expect to gain by transferring your 
cargo to Charax is beyond me, but 
it's your business." 

An hour later, the chartered air- 
plane took off with a thunder of 
jets. Aboard was the 20-ton cargo 

ATOM DRIVE 



the Radiant Hope was supposed to 
carry to Earth, plus some large 
parachutes. The Mars-Air pilot 
wore a light suit with plastic helmet 
designed for survival in the thin, 
cold Martian air. Jonner and De- 
veet wore the bulkier spacesuits. 

Five minutes out of Marsport, 
Jonner thrust the muzzle of a heat- 
gun in the pilot's back. 

"Set it on automatic, strap on 
your parachute and bail out," he 
ordered. "We're taking over." 

The pilot had no choice. He 
went through the plane's airlock 
and jumped, helped by a hearty 
boost from Jonner. His parachute 
blossomed out as he drifted down 
toward the green Syrtis Major 
Lowland. Jonner didn't worry 
about him. He knew the pilot's 
helmet radio would reach Mars- 
port and a helicopter would rescue 
him shortly. 

"I don't know what you're try- 
ing to do, Jonner," said Deveet ap- 
prehensively over his spacehelmet 
radio. "But whatever it is, you'd 
better do it fast. They'll have every 
plane on Mars looking for us in 
half an hour." 

"Let 'em look, and keep quiet a 
while," retorted Jonner. "I've got 
some figuring to do. 

He put the plane on automatic, 
took off the spacesuit handbooks 
and scribbled figures on a scrap of 
paper. He tuned in the plane's 
radio and called Qogol on Phobos. 
They talked to each other briefly 
in Martian. 

The darker green line of a canal 
crossed the green lowland below 
them. 

"Good, there's Drosinas, mut- 

69 



tered Jonner. "Let's see, time 1424 
hours, speed 660 miles an hour . . ." 

Jonner boosted the jets a bit and 
watched the terrain. 

"By Saturn, I almost overran it!" 
he exclaimed. "Deveet, smash out 
those ports." 

"Break out the ports?" repeated 
Deveet. "That'll depressurize the 
cabin!" 

"That's right. So you'd better be 
sure your spacesuit's secure." 

Obviously puzzled, Deveet strode 
up and down the cabin, knocking 
out its six windows with the hand- 
hooks of his spacesuit. Jonner 
maneuvered the plane gently, and 
set it on automatic. He got out of 
the pilot's seat and strode to the 
right front port. 

Reaching through the broken 
window, he pulled in a section of 
cable that was trailing alongside. 
While the baffled Deveet watched, 
he reeled it in until he brought up 
the end of it, to which was at- 
tached a fish-shaped finned metal 
missile. 

Jonner carried the cable end and 
the attached missile across the 
cabin and tossed it out the broken 
front port on the other side, swing- 
ing it so that the 700-mile-an-hour 
slipstream snapped it back in 
through the rearmost port like a 
bullet. 

"Pick it up and pass it out the 
right rear port," he commanded. 
"We'll have to pass it to each other 
from port to port. The slipstream 
won't let us swing it forward and 
through." 

In a few moments, the two of 
them had worked the missile and 
the cable end to the right front 

70 



port and in through it. Originating 
above the plane, it now made a 
loop through the four open ports. 
Jonner untied the missile and tied 
the end to the portion which came 
into the cabin, making a bowline 
knot of the loop. Deveet picked up 
the missile from the floor, where 
Jonner had thrown it. 

"Looks like a spent rocket shell," 
he commented. 

"It's a signal rocket," said Jon- 
ner. "The flare trigger was dis- 
connected." 

He picked up the microphone 
and called the Radiant Hope on 
Phobos. 

"We've hooked our fish, Qoqol," 
he told the Martian, and laid the 
mike aside. 

"What does that mean?" asked 
Deveet. 

"Means we'd better strap in," 
said Jonner, suiting the action to 
the words. "You're in for a short 
trip to Phobos, Deveet." 

Jonner pulled back slowly on the 
elevator control, and the plane be- 
gan a shallow climb. At 700 miles 
an hour, it began to attain a height 
at which its broad wings — broader 
than those of any terrestrial plane 
— would not support it. 

"I'm trying to decide," said De- 
veet with forced calm, "whether 
you've flipped your helmet." 

"Nope," answered Jonner. 
"Trolling for those fish in Mars 
City gave me the idea. The rest 
was no more than an astrogation 
problem, like any rendezvous with 
a ship in a fixed orbit, which Qoqol 
could figure. Remember that 6,000- 
mile television cable the ship's haul- 
ing? Qoqol just shot the end of it 

CHARLES FONTENAY 



down to Mars' surface by signal 
rocket, we hooked on and now he'll 
haul us up to Phobos. He's got the 
ship's engine hooked onto the cable 
winch." 

The jets coughed and stopped. 
The plane was out of fuel. It was 
on momentum — to be drawn by 
the cable, or to snap it and fall. 

"Impossible!" cried Deveet in 
alarm. "Phobos' orbital speed is 
more than a mile a second! No 
cable can take the sudden differ- 
ence in that and the speed we're 
traveling. When the slack is gone, 
it'll break!" 

"The slack's gone already. You're 
thinking of the speed of Phobos, at 
Phobos. At this end of the cable, 
we're like the head of a man in the 
control section of a space station, 
which is traveling slower than his 
feet because its orbit is smaller — 
but it revolves around the center in 
the same time. 

"Look," Jonner added, "I'll put 
it in round numbers. Figure your 
cable as part of a radius of Phobos' 
orbit. Phobos travels at 1.32, but 
the other end of the radius travels 
at zero because it's at the center. 
The cable end, at the Martian sur- 
face, travels at a speed in between 
- — roughly 1,200 miles an hour — 
but it keeps up with Phobos' revolu- 
tion. Since the surface of Mars it- 
self rotates at 500 miles an hour, 
all I had to do was boost the plane 
up to 700 to match the speed of the 



cable end. 

"That cable will haul a hell of a 
lot more than twenty tons, and 
that's all that's on it right now. By 
winching us up slowly, there'll 
never be too great a strain on it." 

Deveet looked apprehensively out 
of the port. The plane was hanging 
sidewise now, and the distant Mar- 
tian surface was straight out the 
left-hand ports. The cable was 
holding. 

"We can make the trip to Earth 
83 days faster than the Marsward," 
said Jonner, "and they have only 
about 20 days' start. It won't take 
us but a few days to make Phobos 
and get this cable and the rest of 
the cargo shot back to Mars. Atom- 
Star will get its franchise, and 
you'll see all spaceships switching 
to the atomic drive within the next 
decade." 

"How about this plane?" asked 
Deveet. "We stole it, you know." 

"You can hire a G-boat to take 
it back to Marsport," said Jonner 
with a chuckle. "Pay Mars-Air for 
the time and the broken ports, and 
settle out of court with that pilot 
we dropped. I don't think they'll 
send you to jail, Deveet." 

He was silent for a few minutes. 

"By the way, Deveet," said Jon- 
ner then, "radio Atom-Star to buy 
some flonite cable of- their owr> and 
ship it to Phobos. Damned if I 
don't think this is cheaper than 
G-boatsl" • • • 



WHAT IS YOUR SCIENCE I.Q.? 

ANSWERS: 1 — Silver. 2 — Cyclotron. 3— Rapidly. 4 — Blaise Pascal. 
5— Electron. 6 — Catalysis. 7 — Inversely. 8 — 80. 9 — One. 10 — Partho- 
genesis. 11—32. 12— Right angles. 13—14.7. 14— Violet. 15— Hydro- 
gen. 16— One. 17— Two. 18— Hydrogen. 19— Balloons. 20— 5/9ths. 



ATOM DRIVE 



71 



Il 



c n r o oi e 

A S T U M E 



The Car was the new concept of the golden calf. 



And the Green Pastures and Still Waters had 



been replaced by the Happy Highways of Heaven . . 



Object worship reached its heyday in the mid twenty-first 
century. The bluebird, which had already become a number 
of ignominious things, finally became an automobile. It grew 
chrome wings and exchanged its heart for a carburetor, its 
feet for wheels and its backyard for a pedestal in The Church 
of the Happy Traveler. It was inevitable that the procedure 
for catching it should change. 

— Bethe Royale, MASS MOTIVATIONS 

THE SENECA Cathedral was crowded even for Display 
Sunday. Marcus Brett shouldered his way through the 
vestibule into the big Showroom and paused at the head of 
the center aisle. The Showroom was ablaze with the blue- 
white radiance of fluorescent candles, a radiance brightly mul- 



BY ROBERT F. YOUNG 



tiplied by the mirrored walls, caught by the polished chrome 
ceiling and flung blindingly down upon the congregation. The 
new Seneca model which was to be unveiled stood upon the 
pedestal behind the Dealer's dais, concealed by a huge damask 
sheet. Brett looked at it hungrily, trying to visualize its new 
lines, its new combination of colors. He took a slow deep 
breath, then started down the aisle toward his reserved seat. 
The seat next to his was Czech's, Brett's turn-buddy. Brett 



Illustrated by Kelly Freas 




73 



was surprised to find it occupied by 
a White Collar girl. White Collar 
Workers were getting bolder and 
bolder every day. Not that the 
girl's boldness was going to do her 
any good : as soon as Czech showed 
up she'd have to leave. 

She glanced at Brett curiously 
when he sat down beside her and he 
returned the glance with his flat 
gray eyes. Her hair was short and 
dark and her eyes were a limpid 
brown. Her small turned up nose 
and round cheeks lent her face a 
quality of childish innocence; it 
could almost have passed for a little 
girl's face if her full lips hadn't 
given it away. She was wearing a 
cheap majorette ensemble, but 
cheap or not, on her robust young 
body it looked good. 

Quite without his knowing it, 
Brett's glance had become a stare. 
The girl dropped her eyes, obvious- 
ly embarrassed, though she did not 
blush. Brett turned away then, 
irked at the direction of his 
thoughts, and tried to concentrate 
on the sheet covered model. 

It looked slightly longer than 
last year's job, but he couldn't be 
sure. However, an increase in 
length was a good bet, for the 
Seneca manufacturers had a tradi- 
tion to live up to: every new model 
they put on the market virtually 
had to be longer than its predeces- 
sor .. . 

Gradually Brett became aware of 
a subtle perfume. There was some- 
thing about it — perhaps the nos- 
talgic scent of apple blossoms which 
it contained — that intrigued him. 
There was no question as to its 
source and it was all he could do to 

74 



keep his eyes on the sheet covered 
model where they belonged. He 
was relieved when the electronic 
organ struck up the Seneca hymn 
and the choir came down the aisle. 
Brett listened to their voices with 
usual dedication, but he still 
smelled apple blossoms. 

After the choir had aligned 
themselves on either side of the 
pedestal and delivered their last 
note, the Dealer himself appeared, 
resplendent in a gold and scarlet 
robe. He walked slowly and majes- 
tically down the aisle, stepped upon 
the dais, and turned to face the 
congregation. His eyes surveyed the 
packed Showroom. "My children," 
he said simply, in his deep resonant 
voice; then, after a brief prayer, he 
began the Seneca beatitudes: 

"Blessed are the rubber forests 
of Vega Twelve for their worthy 
contribution to the betterment of 
Mankind. Blessed are the moun- 
tains of Rigel Seven for their tin 
and their copper and their mag- 
nesium. . ." And finally — "Blessed 
are the rust red plains of Alpha 
Crucis Fourteen, for without their 
manganese, their titanium, and 
their iron ore, life as we know it 
would have long since perished 
from the Earth." 

The sermon followed. It was a 
typical sermon, exalting the su- 
preme patience of the Finance 
Bishop and deprecating the 
thoughtless irresponsibility of the 
average consumer. Brett shifted un- 
easily. He had a guilty conscience. 
During the caryear which was now 
drawing to a close, he'd missed 
three weekly installments and had 
had to have them prorated. As a 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 



result, the remaining installments 
had been so huge that he'd barely 
been able to manage them, and 
he'd come uncomfortably close to 
losing his Seneca. Even now, with 
his final payment safely deposited 
with the Finance Bishop, the very 
thought of such a calamity was 
enough to evoke tiny globules of 
sweat on his brow. 

He promised himself to be more 
conservative in the future, chase 
fewer women, drink fewer Dream 
Girls. Then his attention wandered. 
The Dealer was explaining a new 
decree which the Finance Bishop 
had issued, and decrees bored Brett 
to death. He unsealed his white 
driving jacket and slumped down 
in his seat, crossing his booted legs. 
The apple blossom scent was all 
around him, more intriguing than 
ever. He wondered rather desper- 
ately what had happened to Czech 
and concluded that something im- 
portant must have come up and 
made it impossible for him to at- 
tend the services. 

At last the sermon ended and the 
moment for the unveiling arrived. 
The congregation murmured in 
awed expectation, and there was 
an over-all shift in the spectrum of 
gaudy driving jackets as everyone 
leaned forward in his seat. After 
giving forth with the usual pane- 
gyrics concerning the superiority of 
Seneca models in general and the 
new Seneca model in particular, the 
Dealer said: "And now it is my 
privilege to reveal our latest crea- 
tive masterpiece — the Bluebird!" 

He raised one square bejeweled 
hand and the sheet fluttered ceil- 
ingward like a frightened cloud. At 

CHROME PASTURES 



first there was only silence, and 
then a mass Ahhhh rose from 
the congregation. Following the 
Ahhhh, voice after voice was raised 
in reverent astonishment. 

"Why," Brett gasped, "it if 
longer, A good ten inches longer!" 

"It's a dream," the White Col- 
lar girl breathed. 

"Beautiful," Brett murmured. 
"Beautiful beautiful beautiful . . ." 

He began to notice some of the 
details he had glossed over in his 
first moment of rapture. The Blue- 
bird was not only longer than last 
year's model, it was lower, too: its 
highest point was barely three feet 
above the pedestal. And there was 
a striking change in the chrome 
decor, the main feature being a 
wing-like strip along the brilliant 
blue flanks so suggestive of move- 
ment that it was hard to believe 
the car was standing still. 

"It looks almost as if it could 
fly," the White Collar girl said. 

In his excitement, Brett forgot 
her status. "It's a swell job all 
right," he said, turning towards her. 

"Such a beautiful blue!" 

Briefly, Brett forgot the car. The 
girl's enthusiasm had turned her 
full cheeks pink, made her dark 
eyes sparkle. Her cheap majorette 
ensemble was painfully conspicious 
in a gathering where women wore 
feminine adaptations of masculine 
driving attire; nevertheless, it 
brought out her figure in a way 
that a pair of thigh-tight breeches 
and a breast-fitted jacket never 
could have. Abruptly Brett won- 
dered what she'd be like undressed. 
He'd never tried to pick up a 
White Collar girl, not only because 

75 



they were beneath his social status, 
but because it had never occurred 
to him that any of them would be 
worth the trouble. 

This one looked like she might be 
worth a lot of trouble. "What's 
your name?" he asked impulsively, 
invisible apple blossoms falling aJl 
around him. 

"Linda," she said. "Linda 
Dalms." 

"Mark Brett. . . Like to ride?" 

Her eyes had been on his face. 
At his question they dropped to the 
gaudy Seneca insigne on the collar 
of his jacket. "Yes, Yes I do." 

"How would it be if I picked 
you up around six tonight and we 
take a whirl?" 

"It would be divine," Linda 
said . . . 

The Dealer was bringing the 
services to a close. "Tonight," he 
said, "the Bluebird will be placed 
on display in Seneca Square. While 
there will be enough of the new 
models to supply all our customers, 
I'd advise all prospective buyers to 
place their orders before Turn- In 
Friday in order to be assured of 
delivery by New Car Sunday. Or- 
ders will be taken in the vicarage 
immediately following the end of 
the services." 

After the prayer, Brett accom- 
panied Linda to the street. Stand- 
ing in the April morning sunlight, 
he said: "Guess I'll order mine 
right away. No sense waiting." 

He watched for a gleam of envy 
to come into her eyes; such a reac- 
tion on the part of a person who 
couldn't even buy one of the 
chrome wings of the new model 
would have been logical. But Lin- 

76 



da's eyes remained the same- 
large and limpid and guileless — 
and all she said was, "I'm glad, 
Mr. Brett." 

Brett was annoyed. "Where- 
abouts in Center City do you live?" 
he asked abruptly. 

She hadn't said she lived in Cen- 
ter City and his assuming that she 
did was a calculated insult, even 
though both of them knew she 
couldn't possibly live anywhere else. 
But if the insult got home, she gave 
no sign. "The old office block," she 
said. "Building 14, Apartment 
902." 

"I'll see you about six," Brett 
said. He was about to turn and 
walk away, but she beat him to it. 
She threw a soft goodbye over her 
shoulder just before the departing 
crowd engulfed her. He stood there 
furious for a moment, but a wisp of 
her perfume had lingered behind 
her and when it touched his nos- 
trils his anger dissolved. 

Suddenly he remembered the 
small apple orchard in which he 
had played as a little boy. The 
whole scene came back, the trees 
with their pink-white blossoms, his 
mother reading in the nearby sum- 
merhouse ; the utter peace and tran- 
quillity that had pervaded the love- 
ly June day. . . The orchard was 
gone now, leveled to make room 
for the new illuminated Raceway, 
the orchard and the antique double 
garage behind which it had stood; 
and his mother too, for that matter, 
killed in the same five car pile-up 
in which his father had perished 
magnificently. Only the memory re- 
mained, strengthened by the num- 
ber of times he had had to recall it 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 



orally in the presence of the finance 
psychoanalyst during the yearly 
pre-contract examination, and trig- 
gered now by the ersatz scent of 
apple blossoms contained in a 
White Collar girl's perfume. 

It was far from being an un- 
pleasant memory, and ordinarily 
Brett would have permitted his 
mind to dwell upon it. But there 
was a much more important item 
on his mind this morning and the 
memory had scarcely touched his 
consciousness before the Bluebird 
brushed it aside with a scintillating 
flurry of chrome wings. Brett turned 
and began walking towards the 
vicarage. 

The Seneca vicarage adjoined 
the Seneca cathedral, facing the 
mile-wide business boulevard that 
encircled Center City. While its 
modest fagade could not compete 
with the glorious facade of the 
cathedral itself, it was imposing in 
its own right. It had no chrome- 
mullioned windows of course, and 
no chrome-garnished steeples; but 
its ornamental glassbrick design 
was pleasing to the eye, and it 
boasted the largest display window 
of any vicarage in the city. 

Last year's Seneca- — the Four 
Million model — still stood in the 
window. Brett merely glanced at it 
as he passed. A year ago its sleek 
lines and scarlet body had dazzled 
him, and he had been one of the 
thousands of enthusiastic First 
Owners to drive in the New Car 
Sunday Parade. But now he had 
glimpsed the Bluebird and beside 
the Bluebird the Four Million 
looked like an antique clunker, only 

CHROME PASTURES 



too deserving of the fiery demise 
which awaited it in one of the 
open hearths during the coming 
caryear. 

A queue of people had formed 
outside the vicarage door and Brett 
appended himself to it. He lit a 
cigarette and smoked nervously. It 
was noon by the time he stood in 
front of the caged window and pre- 
sented his identity disk to the aco- 
lyte in charge. 

The acolyte took the disk and 
placed it beneath the objective eye 
of the electronic examiner. Brett 
waited complacently for the famil- 
iar "Beep" of approval. He was 
demoralized when the examiner 
emitted the raucous buzz that sig- 
nified credit disqualification. 

"There must be some mistake,", 
he said tightly. "Try it again." 

The acolyte did so. The buzz 
sounded again, more raucous than 
before. "There's no mistake," the 
acolyte said. 

"But there must be!" Brett's 
whole world was tottering. "I want 
to see the Dealer. I demand to see 
the Dealer!" 

"If you wish." The acolyte de- 
pressed a button with his elbow. 
"Another one. Father," he said in- 
to his wristcom, giving Brett's name 
and number. Then he raised his 
wrist to his ear, listened a moment, 
finally lowered his arm and de- 
pressed the elbow switch again. The 
Dealer will see you presently," he 
said to Brett, handing back the 
disk. "Take a seat, please." 

There was a bench running the 
length of the office at right angles 
to the acolyte's window. Brett saw 
that it was already crowded, and he 

77 



felt some consolation in the evident 
fact that his disk wasn't the only 
one that the examiner had rejected. 
He made room for himself, wedg- 
ing his lean body between a per- 
spiring fat man and a sniffling wom- 
an; then he folded his arms across 
his chest and gazed up through the 
transparent ceiling into the pale 
blue April sky. 

A jet had just finished strato- 
sphere-writing. Brett read the 
familiar sentence automatically : 
THE FINANCE MAN WILL 
GET YOU IF YOU DON'T 
WATCH OUT! He winced and 
dropped his eyes to the tile floor. 
The Finance Man had been close 
upon his heels for the past several 
months and the experience had 
been harrowing. And then the 
thought struck him: perhaps his 
three defaulted payments had had 
something to do with his credit dis- 
qualification. 

He shook his head. Missing pay- 
ments and prorating them was 
common practice, and becoming 
more common every day. It was 
unthinkable that the Finance Bish- 
op would disqualify anyone's credit 
on those grounds alone. 

Or was it? 

Brett spent the next two hours 
trying to convince himself that it 
was. Every fifteen minutes or so a 
small, tousle-haired acolyte threw 
open the door leading to the Deal- 
er's quarters, called a name, and 
one of the occupants of the bench 
got up and followed him out of the 
office. But the bench never emptied. 
At intervals the examiner behind 
the acolyte's window would emit a 
raucous buzz, and shortly there- 

78 



after another crestfallen consumer 
would come over and sit down. 

Presently the tousle-haired aco- 
lyte opened the door and said: 
"Marcus Brett." Brett got up, fol- 
lowed him through a long cool 
corridor, through two sumptuous 
outer rooms and into a large study. 
Three of the study walls were lined 
with car catalogues, parts manuals, 
and road atlases — all bound in imi- 
tation Morocco leather. On the 
wall opposite the door hung a huge 
three-dimensional mural depicting 
the popular conception of the High- 
ways of Heaven: shining roads 
leaped like shards of light from 
fleecy cloud to fleecy cloud against 
a backdrop of breathless blue, and 
here and there along the promised 
highways could be seen the speed- 
ing cars of the Happy Travelers. 

The Dealer sat behind a tremen- 
dous chrome desk studying a thick 
sheaf of papers. He had divested 
himself of his sacerdotal robes and 
was wearing a black, smartly-cut 
driving jacket that contrasted eff'ec- 
tively with the whiteness of his 
turned around collar. He looked 
up when Brett and the acolyte en- 
tered, dismissing the acolyte with a 
wriggle of his little finger. "Sit 
down, my son," he said to Brett, 
indicating a chrome chair by the 
desk. 

Brett complied nervously and the 
Dealer returned his attention to the 
papers. He was an old man — forty- 
five at least. But that was not sur- 
prising for Dealers were usually 
good drivers. The ancient tortoise- 
rimmed spectacles which he affect- 
ed gave his full square face an aris- 
tocratic touch, and his dark brown 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 



hair grew gray and graceful along 
his temples. 

After a moment he looked up at 
Brett again. "You realize, do you 
not," he said in his deep pleasant 
voice, "that these papers which I 
am perusing are facsimiles of your 
contract, your promptitude record, 
your character analysis, and your 
biography?" 

"Yes, Father." 

"An electronic examiner never 
makes a mistake, but I am always 
willing to check and recheck a cus- 
tomer's dossier if he so wishes. I 
have checked yours thoroughly and 
see nothing that would invalidate 
the examiner's decision. What 
makes you think that your credit 
does not deserve disqualification?" 

"I can't see any reason why it 
should deserve disqualification," 
Brett said hoarsely. "My Four Mil- 
lion's all paid for— I deposited my 
last installment in the Finance Bish- 
op's account yesterday. Maybe I 
defaulted once or twice, but—" 

"Three times," the Dealer said. 
. . "Did you attend my services this 
morning?" 

"Certainly, Father. I attend your 
services every Sunday." 

The Dealer shook his large hand- 
some head in mild despair. "You at- 
tend them — and hear nothing of 
what I say. This morning I called 
everyone's attention to the new 
restriction which the Finance Bish- 
op has seen fit to impose on future 
finance contractions, yet apparent- 
ly no one in the Showroom heard 
me other than myself." 

Brett hung his head. "I heard 
you mention something about a 
restriction, but I'm afraid I missed 

CHROME PASTURES 



exactly what it was." 

"I'll repeat verbatim what I 
said." The Dealer leaned forward, 
resting his elbows on the polished 
chrome of the desktop. "Listen 
carefully, my son: In view of the 
fact that delinquency in weekly 
finance payments has increased de- 
plorably during the recent caryear, 
the Finance Bishop has been forced 
to issue the following decree: 'Any 
car buyer who has defaulted on 
more than two installments during 
the caryear ending April 6, 2055 
shall be deemed unworthy of con- 
tract renewal on any new model 
unless ( 1 ) he deposits a down pay- 
ment in addition to the traditional 
one third allowance on his last 
year's model, said payment not to 
be less than one fourth the amount 
of the remaining balance, or (2) he 
submits evidence that his character 
has, or will in the near future, come 
under the stabilizing influence of a 
factor hitherto unpresent.' " 

Brett was on his feet. His face 
was ashen. "But that's fantastic, 
Father!" he shouted. "You know I 
can't raise that much money!" 

The Dealer raised a square, 
twinkling hand. "Calm yourself, my 
son. If alternative number one is 
impracticable, why not consider al- 
ternative number two? And in this 
connection, may I presume to elab- 
orate upon the Finance Bishop's 
erudite, but somewhat confusing, 
phraseology? The factor to which 
His Holiness refers is, to put it 
simply, marriage. It is a statistical 
fact that of all the car buyers who 
defaulted on more than two pay- 
ments during the recent caryear, 
ninety-eight percent were unat- 

79 



tached men or women, the men 
predominating by a ratio of almost 
two to one. Quite obviously the re- 
sponsibilities of conjugality have a 
stabilizing effect upon both sexes, 
particularly the male; add to this 
happy eventuality the fact that 
marriage brings two incomes to- 
gether over the same garage and 
you begin to appreciate the shrewd 
reasoning behind the Bishop's de- 
cree . . . Have you any marital pros- 
pects, my son?" 

Brett shook his head numbly. His 
last affair had been dead embers 
for more than a week, and the one 
coming up with the White Collar 
girl didn't count. A White Collar 
girl was a far cry from being a 
marital prospect. 

"Then I'd suggest," the Dealer 
continued, "that you start looking 
around. And may I remind you," 
he added, his wide, thin-lipped 
mouth curving in a bleak smile, 
"that you haven't much time if you 
don't want to get caught without a 
new car. You have, in fact — "and 
he glanced at his watch — "six days, 
nine hours, forty minutes, and some 
odd seconds before New Car Sun- 
Day." 

He wriggled his little finger and 
the tousle-haired acolyte appeared 
magically in the doorway. "Show 
Consumer Brett out through the 
side entrance," the Dealer said. 
"And for Seneca's sake, comb your 
hair!" 



BRETT HEADED straight for 
the parklot. He was so upset 
that he almost climbed into his 
Seneca without deactivating the 



80 



sentry and he came close to getting 
his brains blown out for trying to 
steal his own car. 

The sentry was the latest car 
thief device to be put on the mar- 
ket, and like all the devices that 
had preceded it, it would be good 
only until the car thieves got onto 
it. Otherwise its only drawback 
was its impartiality: while it was 
functioning anyone who came with- 
in its field of vision was automatic- 
ally classified as a car thief and 
shortly thereafter became a car 
thief with a hole in his head. 

Driving along the boulevard, 
Brett considered getting rid of the 
deadly little mechanism. He decid- 
ed not to. The safety of his Seneca 
warranted a little personal danger. 
After all, it was the only car he 
had, and from the way things were 
beginning to look, it was the last 
car he was ever going to have. 

He made a complete circuit of 
the business district, his mind re- 
verting to the Bluebird. He had 
never wanted a car so badly. Pre- 
sently he turned down one of the 
tangent streets that led to Periph- 
eral City. After the mile-wide bou- 
levard. Peripheral City seemed 
friendly and secure. Brett drove 
along slowly, winding through the 
idyllic streets, looking at the 
trimmed hedges and the pruned 
shade trees, the neat garages set 
well back from the street and 
reached by concrete, blacktop, peb- 
ble, or gravel driveways; the charm- 
ing little self-service stations tucked 
away in maple arbors. 

Garages always fascinated him, 
regardless of his mood. There was 
that colonial affair, with sedate 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 



hedgerows leading up to its early 
American double doors; and then, 
a block farther on, that ranch type 
affair, so low and rambling that 
there was hardly enough space for 
the overhead apartment. Double 
garages predominated of course; 
one car families were unusual in 
Peripheral City, and a single garage 
almost invariably implied a single 
man or woman. 

Presently he came to the street 
that led to his own garage and 
turned down it. His problem was 
heavy on his shoulders as he 
climbed the narrow stairs to his 
overhead apartment, and when he 
bumped his head on the low beam 
in the kitchenette, his morale was 
far from being improved. 

He ordered a salmon course from 
the Instantcook, and picked at it 
disinterestedly when it emerged. 
For one of the few times in his life 
he couldn't concentrate on his 
food. All he could think of was the 
Bluebird. 

He glanced at his watch. He had 
nearly two hours to kill before he 
could pick up Linda. He decided 
against going for a ride — riding 
would only bring the Bluebird more 
poignantly to mind. That left 3V. 
Brett threw the remnants of his 
meal into the devourer and went 
into the compact living room. He 
sat down in his relaxer and toed on 
the 3V set. The Construction En- 
gineer materialized on the screen. 

Ordinarily Brett never listened 
to the Construction Engineer. 
Changing channels when the thin 
haunted face appeared was prac- 
tically a conditioned reflex in any 
car owner. But Brett wasn't himself 

CHROME PASTURES 



today, and he lay back in his re- 
laxer, hardly aware of what the 
man was saying. 

However, his indifference was 
short-lived. There was a quality 
about the Construction Engineer's 
voice that commanded attention: a 
deep, vibrant sincerity that belied 
the insanity of his perspective, the 
dearth of logic behind his words. 

His words were many — 

" — cannot impart sanctity. Steal- 
ing the hierarchical nomenclature, 
the architectonics, and the cere- 
monial garb from a genuine in- 
stitution and integrating them into 
a pseudo-institution can never val- 
idate that pseudo-institution in the 
eyes of God. A money lender is 
still a money lender no matter 
what title he confers upon himself. 
Spires do not a cathedral make, nor 
sacerdotal robes a man of God. 

"Economic necessity can never 
justify the apotheosis of metal. The 
fact that the yearly turnover of 
automobiles is inexorably related to 
the financial security of the in- 
dividual is an inadequate founda- 
tion for a religion. I say to you: 
Better an economic chaos than the 
idealogical chaos which affronts us 
now!" 

Brett shifted uncomfortably in 
the relaxer. What the Construction 
Engineer was saying was pure non- 
sense, but his sincerity was to un- 
questionable that the nonsense 
took on some of the aspects of 
sense. 

Perhaps that was why the Deal- 
ers feared him so much, why they 
campaigned so incessantly against 
him. The Seneca Dealer was the 
most zealous campaigner, possibly 

81 



because it was the Seneca Memo- 
rial Trust Building that had pre- 
cipitated the Construction En- 
gineer's heresy. A year ago his bid 
had been accepted by the Seneca 
Foundation and he had begun the 
job on schedule. Then, the day fol- 
lowing the ceremonial laying of the 
first cornerstone, he had inexplic- 
ably disappeared. All efforts to con- 
tact him had failed, and finally 
another contractor had been en- 
gaged. Then, six months later, the 
Construction Engineer had reap- 
peared, purchased 3V time, and 
commenced his series of anti-auto- 
mobile lectures. 

To date, the Dealers had been 
unable to do much about him. 
Even the Finance Bishop was help- 
less. For although the Construction 
Engineer's lectures sometimes em- 
bodied economic and ethical here- 
sy, he had never advocated the 
overthrow of the existent society on 
any but a religious level and there- 
fore could not be prosecuted. 

With an effort Brett raised his 
eyes to the man's face. It was an 
old face — the Construction En- 
gineer was a good fifty. But con- 
sidering the fact that he had not 
driven a car for years, his age was 
not unusual. In spite of himself 
Brett found himself listening to the 
man's words: 

"The canonization in the year 
1970 of the original automobile 
manufacturers was the result of 
diverse pressures: the whole econ- 
omy hinged on car output and car 
consumption ; the four-wheeled 
raison d'etre of the average in- 
dividual had long ago been estab- 
lished ; and the automobile f oun- 

82 



dations had already begun the 
initial experiments in faster-than- 
light drives that led eventually to 
the conquest of interstellar space — 
and of course to the acquisition of 
desperately needed natural re- 
sources. 

"But the canonization of the 
original automobile manufacturers 
can never justify the series of sacri- 
legious events that followed it: the 
new sales methods, the renaming of 
names, the rebuilding of showrooms 
to resemble cathedrals, the creation 
of the Church of the Happy Trav- 
eler and its subsequent usurpation 
of all religious activities in the 
western world; the supplanting of 
Green Pastures and Still Waters 
with the immature concept of the 
Highways of Heaven — " 

The Construction Engineer 
paused, as though overcome by his 
own rhetoric. "What," he asked ab- 
ruptly, "is a car?" There was a 
blackboard behind him and, turn- 
ing, he printed the letter "A" in 
the upper left hand corner and the 
letter "B" in the lower right hand 
corner. 

"A car," he went on, "is a me- 
chanical conveyance capable of 
transporting us from point "A" to 
point "B", or, conversely, from 
point "B" to point "A". It is noth- 
ing more than that. 

"It is a means toward an end, 
and as long as it is so regarded, it 
is beneficial to the human race. 
When, however, it is regarded as 
an end in itself, nothing but tragedy 
can result — " 

With a convulsive movement 
Brett pressed the channel pedal 
with the toe of his right boot. The 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 



Construction Engineer was begin- 
ning to get on his nerves. 

He looked at his watch: 5:00 
o'clock. If he stopped some place 
and had a few drinks he could be 
at Linda's apartment long enough 
after six to convince her that he 
didn't much care whether she went 
riding with him or not. 

He descended to the garage, de- 
activated the sentry and got in his 
Seneca. He chose a tangent street 
at random, made a half circle of 
the business boulevard and drew 
into the parklot of the The Hub 
Cap. It was dusk by then and the 
myriad lights of the business build- 
ings formed coruscating palisades 
on either side of the car streaming 
boulevard. 

Brett brooded over a Dream 
Girl at the chrome bar, trying to 
see some way out of his dilemma. 
He lit a cigarette and considered 
selling his garage to raise the one 
fourth down payment which the 
Finance Bishop required. But if he 
sold his garage he'd have to live in 
his car, and it would only be a 
question of time before the carcops 
picked him up for Indecency. Next 
he considered putting a second 
mortgage on his garage. But that 
would never do: he had trouble 
enough keeping up the payments 
on the first mortgage. 

Finally, after three more Dream 
Girls, he got around to consider- 
ing marriage. He didn't consider 
it for long. Marriage, when you 
were only twenty-six, was an out- 
rageous price to have to pay, even 
for a Bluebird. Besides, he had 
no prospects anyway — unless you 
counted Linda. 

CHROME PASTURES 



And he was damned if he'd 
count her! 

But just the same, when he 
thought of her his pulse came to 
life, and he glanced at the clock 
inset in the big chrome hub cap 
behind the bar: 5:57. He finished 
his fifth Dream Girl hurriedly and 
went out and got in his Seneca. It 
wasn't technically wise to be too 
late. 

Center City had once been the 
city before the gradual exodus to 
the suburbs had isolated it. Some 
of its buildings were centuries old, 
and its ancient streets were little 
more than series of chuck holes, 
frost upheavals, and fissures. 

A long time ago the begrimed 
towers had been honeycombed with 
offices; now the few offices needed 
in a society of business machines 
existed behind the bright fagades 
on the business boulevard, while 
the old office space had been taken 
over by the White Collar Workers 
and converted into apartments. 

The elevator of Building 14 
creaked alarmingly as it raised him 
to the ninth floor. He was relieved 
when he stepped out into the clut- 
tered corridor. Old fashioned fluo- 
rescents cast pallid light on the 
dusty floor, lent a ghastly tinge to 
the peeling walls. Many of the 
rooms were vacant, but most of 
them were occupied by squabbling 
families. The stale odor of plank- 
ton soup hung in the air like mias- 
ma. 

By the time he found Apartment 
12, Brett was sorry he had come. 
Then, when the battered door 
opened at his knock and Linda 

83 



stepped out to meet him, he was 
suddenly glad that he had come. 
The odor of plankton soup faded 
away and the corridor became an 
apple orchard in June. Linda had 
exchanged the majorette ensemble 
for a simple dacron dress, and she 
looked like a Greek goddess with a 
baby face who had just descended 
the slopes of Olympus to find out 
what mortal life was all about. 

Brett took a slow, deep breath, 
"All set, baby?" he said. 

When Brett was a small boy at- 
tending elementary tech, there had 
been a certain period which he and 
all the other pupils looked forward 
to each day. It was the period dur- 
ing which the identifilms— donated 
by the Seneca, the Oneida, or one 
of the other Dealers — were shown, 
and it was called the Daydream 
Hour. 

Invariably the identifilms dealt 
with automobiles, and invariably 
the youthful audience got a chance 
to get behind the wheel at least 
once during the hour. Total iden- 
tification techniques were primitive 
in those days, but they were capable 
of lending a sense of participation, 
especially if you were a child. 

The film that had made the 
deepest impression on Brett depic- 
ted a boy taking his girl for a ride 
in a new Seneca. The boy was 
Brett's own age and Brett iden- 
tified with him easily, and shortly 
he was behind the wheel and feel- 
ing the pulse of the car beneath his 
feet and the summer wind in his 
hair. From that moment on, he had 
lived for the time when he could 
really climb into a new Seneca and 

84 



really take his girl for a ride on the 
Speedway. 

He had realized the Daydream 
many times by now of course, 
though the Speedway had bowed 
out before the wider and better 
banked Raceway; but those first 
vicarious moments were still sweet 
in his memory, and he knew he 
would never forget them as long as 
he lived. 

"Do you always drive so fast?" 
Linda asked. 

"You call this fast?" Brett said. 
"You should ride to work with me 
some time!" 

The illuminated Raceway had its 
usual Sunday evening complement 
of hurtling cars. Brett twisted a- 
droitly in and out, never diminish- 
ing the Seneca's speed unless col- 
lision were unavoidable. The 
myriad lights of the Seneca As- 
sembly Plant began to flicker by. 
Brett pointed. 

"That's where they put these 
jobs together," he said. 

"Do you work there?" 

"Not me. I run an open hearth." 

"Oh." 

It was a small "oh." And small 
wonder, Brett thought. The kid 
was probably overawed. Here was 
a world she had probably never 
seen before, imprisoned as she was 
in the cramped canyons of Center 
City. 

The lights of the Seneca Stamp- 
ing Plant came next, and after 
them, the haze-dimmed lights of 
the Seneca Steel Mill. Brett point- 
ed out the open hearth which he 
operated, but it was behind them 
by the time Linda turned her head. 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 



"Ever seen the spaceport?" he 
asked. 

"Not for years." 

"I know a parking place where 
we can get a good view of the 
ships. "What d'you say?" 

"All right," Linda said. 

Brett watched for the tumoff, 
and when it appeared, slipped 
smoothly out of the stream of traf- 
fic. The darkness of the country- 
side activated the Seneca's head- 
lights, and the macadam leaped 
into bright visibility. It was familiar 
territory to Brett and he drove con- 
fidently, taking the banked curves 
at an easy ninety. It was the kind 
of driving he liked best. 

The spires of the ships began to 
show against the starred sky. Brett 
slowed the Seneca, keeping an eye 
on the right shoulder of the mac- 
adam. Presently the sign he was 
looking for appeared: SKULL 
HILL ROAD. PROCEED AT 
YOUR OWN RISK. 

It was a dirt road, badly eroded 
by the spring rains. He followed it 
to the crest of the hill from which 
it had obtained its name, then 
turned off into a blackened field. 
The hill had been halved to make 
room for the expanding port, and 
he braked the Seneca near the edge 
of the man-made cliff. There was a 
ship squatting in the blasting pit 
at the foot of the cliff, its tapered 
prow rising high above the halved 
hilltop. Beyond it, the prows of 
other ships showed, some in dark- 
ness, some pied with the round 
radiance of open ports. 

Brett turned off the motor and 
extinguished the headlights. He 
turned to Linda. "Like it here?" 

CHROME PASTURES 



"Is it safe? That sign back 
there — " 

"That sign is for rubes who don't 
know anything about ship sched- 
ules," Brett said. "That big job in 
the pit there is the only one close 
enough to bum us and it isn't due 
to blast off till Turn-In Friday. It's 
a prison ship." 

"If it did blast right now, there 
wouldn't be much left of us, would 
there, Mark?" she said. 

"Not even ashes. But I didn't 
bring you all the way up here just 
to talk about ships." He slipped his 
arm around her shoulders. 

She moved closer to him. Her 
face, when he bent down to kiss 
her, was soft and pale in the star- 
light; her lips were tender, cool 
and moist. Apple blossoms fell 
aromatically and April changed 
subtly to June. A sense of security 
pervaded Brett; he felt safe and 
warm and wanted. , . . 

His hand fumbled with the shoul- 
der strap of the dacron dress, then 
paused of its own accord. He tried 
again, and again his hand refused 
to do his bidding. 

He raised his head and looked 
down into Linda's round starlit 
face. Her eyes seemed more limpid 
than ever, and from their deeps 
the reflected stars looked steadily 
up at him. Tenderness suffused 
him, tenderness and anger. For 
with the tenderness came the real- 
ization that he could not treat this 
girl the way he had treated all the 
others. 

His need for her was different; it 
was far more complex than the sim- 
ple craving he'd experienced in the 
presence of the other girls he had 

85 



taken out. He could not analyze it 
— it was far beyond him ; and final- 
ly he gave up trying. 

He bent and kissed her again and 
contentment and peace engulfed 
him. He became a wanderer in the 
enchanted universe of her lips and 
her subtle perfume. When he raised 
his head and looked around him 
the night had attained a new beau- 
ty: a simple beauty of land and 
sky and stars. 

He knew that if he kissed her 
again he would say things he would 
regret in the morning, and he 
knew that if they stayed there on 
the hilltop he could not help kiss- 
ing her again. Brett was a practical 
man. He kneed the starter and the 
Seneca purred in the night, its 
headlights picking up the pitted 
hull of the prison ship. 

He withdrew his arm from Lin- 
da's shoulder. "Feel like riding?" 
he asked. 

Her limpid eyes regarded him 
quietly, and again he saw the re- 
flected stars in their depths. The 
laughing stars — For a moment he 
had the eerie feeling that she knew 
exactly what he was thinking, ex- 
actly why he was running away. 

But she only said: "I love to 
ride." 



BRETT WENT to bed thinking 
about Linda and he got up the 
next morning and went to work 
still thinking about Linda. Her 
face accompanied him up to the 
air-conditioned control booth and 
her eyes mocked him as he sat 
down before the televised images of 
his six furnaces, numbers 40 

86 



through 45. 

"40's ready," the 0400-0800 man 
said, donning his jacket. "I just 
took a test bar . . . How's the car?" 

"Fine," Brett said. "How's 
yours?" 

"Couldn't be better. Be seeing 
you." 

Brett lit a cigarette and blew 
smoke into Linda's face. Then he 
tapped 40, giving his attention to 
the pit screen while the blue-white 
heat poured out into the three hun- 
dred ton ladle. His fingers moving 
unen'ingly over the intricate maze 
of buttons on the horizontal remote 
control panel. He started number 
2 charger on the limestone charge. 
The scrap charge was late and he 
phoned Yard to hurry it up. 

Pit called, "45 be ready this 
turn?" Czech asked. 

Brett glanced at the tapping time 
schedule. "No." 

"That's good news," Czech said 
. . . "How's the Seneca?" 

"Fine," Brett said. "How's 
yours?" 

"Great." 

Brett thought of something. 
"Where were you yesterday? I 
didn't see you at the Services." 

"I got called before the Finance 
Bishop," Czech said. "Somehow 
they forgot to process my last ten 
payments and the F. B. thought I'd 
defaulted. But when I kept insist- 
ing that I was paid up to date, he 
checked back and found out that 
his office was to blame. Some effi- 
ciency! How was the Bluebird?" 

"Out of this world," Brett said. 

"Going to get one?" 

"Certainly I'm going to get one! 
Why should you ask that?" 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 



"Don't get mad. I was just curi- 
ous." 

"I'm not mad!" 

Brett hung up. His hands were 
trembling. Linda had driven the 
Bluebird out of his thoughts, but 
now it flew back, more tantalizing 
than before. If he continued to 
drive his Four Million model after 
Turn-In Friday, he would auto- 
matically become a social outcast. 
There was no law that said you had 
to turn your car in every year. But 
there were the expressions on peo- 
ples' faces and there was the con- 
tempt in peoples' eyes; there was 
the hollow feeling inside you that 
you did not belong; that you were 
no better than the White Collar 
Workers who walked all their lives 
because their wages never permit- 
ted them to amass the amount of a 
down payment. 

Abruptly his thoughts switched 
back to Linda. Why should a pover- 
ty-stricken White Collar girl aflfect 
him so? What quality did she have 
that his other girls had lacked? He 
did not know. He only knew that 
he had to see her again, that the 
security and contentment he had 
experienced in her company had 
only whetted his appetite. 

Yard had sent up the scrap 
charge, and Brett started number 
2 charger in on the first buggy. He 
never tired of watching a scrap 
charge. He loved to see the com- 
pressed bodies of last year's cars 
being shoved into the White-hot 
maw of the hearth, dumped un- 
ceremoniously, then left to turn 
into unshapely pink ghosts, finally 
to dissolve into the yellow ignominy 
of molten metal. 

CHROME PASTURES 



Soon, he knew, he would be get- 
ting the first of the Four Million 
bodies. And none to soon. Last 
year's scrap inventory was nearly 
exhausted and the open hearths 
needed new material. 

In his absorption with the scrap 
charge Brett had forgotten Linda 
and the Bluebird, but the moment 
the charger dumped the last pan, 
both returned to haunt him. For 
the first time he saw Linda and the 
Bluebird in relationship to each 
other, and a common solution to 
both problems began to germinate 
in his mind. 

It was time for 43 's drink and 
Brett brought the hot metal ladle 
down on number 1 crane, set the 
spout in number 3 door, and slowly 
tilted the ladle till the red-gold 
Crucis ore spilled in a steady mol- 
ten flow down into the bath. 

His mind was exceedingly clear 
now. There were two main objec- 
tives: (1) to get the Bluebird, (2) 
to have his way with Linda. Get- 
ting the Bluebird involved getting 
married; having his way with Lin- 
da, and placating his incompre- 
hensible idealization of her, in- 
volved the same thing. But there 
was one more consideration: his 
self respect. 

Steel workers in their right minds 
did not marry White Collar girls. 
Not if they wanted to keep their 
self respect. But a steel worker 
could marry a White Collar girl 
and keep his self respect if he had 
the marriage annulled as soon as he 
got what he wanted. And getting 
the annulment would be no prob- 
lem: no judge could possibly fail 
to see the incongruity of such a 

87 



union once it was brought to his 
attention. 

Rehef ran warmly through 
Brett's body. Here was the perfect 
solution; here was the loophole 
which the Finance Bishop had 
overlooked. Not only would he be 
able to get the Bluebird, but he 
would be able to make love to 
Linda without coming into conflict 
with his idiotic idealization of her; 
and he would emerge from the 
whole transaction a free man. 

It was time for 44's drink. Brett 
whistled happily as he guided num- 
ber 1 crane down the floor to the 
hot metal pit. The world had never 
seemed so bright. 

After the turn he shaved and 
showered, then he dressed and went 
down to the open hearth parklot. 
He deactivated the sentry, then he 
started the Seneca and drove it out 
of the lot and onto the Raceway. 
He gunned it up to one ten. The 
April wind sang in the vents, and 
the sky was a brisk spring blue. 

He stopped at a Raceway res- 
taurant and ordered a scallop plate. 
There was a 3V screen behind the 
counter and a tele-newscast was in 
progress. The Construction En- 
gineer was the number one topic 
of the day; according to the an- 
nouncer he had gone berserk on the 
previous night and left himself 
wide open to legal prosecution. 

The scene of his activities had 
been Seneca Square. He had dese- 
crated the alabaster statue of the 
Seneca Dealer by writing "Thou 
shalt not steal!" across its base, 
and he had desecrated the Bluebird, 
which had just been put on dis- 

88 



play, by printing "Golden Calf H" 
on its windshield. Moreover, the 
announcer said, the Construction 
Engineer had performed both acts 
in the presence of a dozen witnesses, 
all of whom were willing to testify 
against him. It was as though he 
were proud of his heretic vandal- 
ism, though not proud enough — the 
announcer added — to remain on 
the scene till the police arrived. 

"Mr. District Attorney has let it 
be known," the announcer con- 
cluded, "that every force at his 
command will be utilized to appre- 
hend this madman in our midst. 
Informed sources say that the Con- 
struction Engineer is at present hid- 
ing out in Center City." 

Brett finished the rest of his scal- 
lops and lit a cigarette. He won- 
dered if the Foundations would 
ever get far enough ahead on raw 
materials so that they could develop 
at least one of their planets along 
agricultural lines — a project they 
had been promising the people for 
decades. Seafood was all right, but 
it got monotonous after a while. 
Meat wasn't even available on the 
black market any more, and pota- 
toes were no more than a dream 
remembered. 

But the economy came first, and 
automobiles were the backbone of 
the economy, and you couldn't very 
well manufacture automobiles with- 
out the necessary metals and people 
couldn't very well drive them with- 
out the necessary fuel. Besides, 
there were plenty of fish in the 
ocean, so there wasn't really any 
need for extra-terrestrial agricul- 
tural development — as long as traf- 
fic fatalities continued to counter- 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 



balance population. 

Brett paid the electronic cashier 
and went outside. The sky was 
more briskly blue than before, and 
the breeze coming in over the fac- 
toried fields was acrid with spring. 
High in the sky a jet was strato- 
sphere-writing. Brett watched idly 
as the lofty letters emerged: 

BUY A BLUEBIRD TODAY! 

He smiled. No, not today, he 
thought. Nor tomorrow. His court- 
ship of Linda was going to take a 
little time. 

But definitely by Turn-In Friday! 



COURTING LINDA, Brett dis- 
covered, had a Fitzgerald effect 
on time. 

At first she was very quiet when 
he picked her up for their second 
date, opening the door of her apart- 
ment before he even had time to 
knock, then closing the door quick- 
ly behind her and taking his arm. 
But her quietness gave way to gaye- 
ty when he took her to the latest 
identi-scope where they became 
vicarious bride and groom in a 
hilarious highway marriage. After- 
wards on the Raceway she snuggled 
against his shoulder, so close that 
her soft hair tickled his neck and 
her perfume enveloped him like an 
enchanted cloud. Almost before he 
knew it, it was time to take her 
home. 

That was Monday night. Tues- 
day night he took her dining, and 
later in the evening they found a 
charming little cafe in the country 
where you could sit at a rustic 
table in a secluded corner and lis- 
ten to the muted strains of the 



latest love songs, and drink and 
talk— 

They talked of many things. 
Brett talked about his work, and 
she listened attentively. But when 
it came time for her to talk about 
her work, she said very little, only 
that she was a secretary and that 
she hated her job. Brett thought he 
understood her reticence and did 
not press her. 

After a while the Construction 
Engineer crept into their conver- 
sation. "I can't figure him out," 
Brett said. "What's he trying to ac- 
complish?" 

"He has a Christ-complex," Lin- 
da said. "Can't you recognize the 
pattern?" 

"You mean he thinks he's 
Christ?" 

Linda's voice had become bitter. 
"Yes. He thinks he's Christ." 

"But he's never claimed to be." 

"Of course not. Did Christ ever 
publicly claim to be the Messiah? 
It's all a part of the pattern. His 
disappearance a year ago was sup- 
posed to symbolize Christ's sojourn 
in the wilderness, and his 3V ha- 
rangues are supposed to symbolize 
the ministry in Galilee; his anti- 
social demonstration in Seneca 
Square the other night was sup- 
posed to represent Christ's conflict 
with the Pharisees and the San- 
hedrin. He's deliberately seeking 
both persecution and prosecution 
now, and probably will contrive 
some way of attaining symbolic 
crucifixion." 

"But why?" Brett demanded. 

Linda's eyes were on the cheq- 
uered tablecloth. Sadness routed 
the bitterness from her voice. "Be- 



CHROME PASTURES 



89 



cause he's sick," she said. "Though 
of course he thinks that we are the 
ones who are sick and that he is 
the physician come to cure us. By 
playing Christ he hopes to change 
society — eliminate the automobile, 
the Raceways, and so forth. His 
perspective is so warped that he 
can't realize that a high traffic 
fatality rate is the only effective 
way to counterbalance population 
increase; that the public's endorse- 
ment of the Church of the Happy 
Traveler is not the result of mate- 
rialism but of economic pressure ; or 
that economic pressure is merely a 
civilized way of saying 'fear of 
hunger'. Considering the economic 
importance of the automobile to 
the average consumer, its apotheo- 
sis isn't any more abnormal than 
the fertility rites of the ancient 
Egyptians, or the worship of the 
rain gods by the Zuni." 

"You seem to know a lot about 
him," Brett said. "Why are you so 
interested in him?" 

"Because — Oh, never mind. I 
don't want to talk about him any 
more!" She raised her eyes and the 
desperation in them astonished 
him. "It's so close in here. Can't we 
go riding somewhere?" 

"The Raceway?" 

"Yes. Yes. The Raceway. And 
drive fast, Mark. Fast , . ." 

The Construction Engineer was 
apprehended the next morning. 
Brett was eating a late breakfast 
when the bulletin bulb on his 3V 
turned red and began to buzz. He 
went into the living room and toed 
the set on, depressing the channel 
pedal till the buzzing stopped and 

90 



the light went off. 

A familiar room appeared on the 
screen and Brett recognized it as 
the vicarage office. There was the 
bench, and there was the acolyte's 
window, and beyond the window — 

Brett gasped. He had never seen 
so many overturned tables and 
chairs before, so many papers of all 
description scattered about. In the 
middle of the shambles stood the 
Seneca Dealer, and beside him 
stood On-the-spot Harrigan, the 
traveling newscaster. An interview 
was in progress. 

The Dealer was saying. "He per- 
formed the whole sacrilegious act 
right in front of me. But as I said, I 
couldn't raise a finger to stop him. 
There was something about the 
way he looked at me— As though — 
As though he felt sorry for me." 

"But why should he feel sorry 
for you of all people, Father?" 

"I don't know," the Dealer said. 

"Well all I can say is he should 
have saved his pity for himself," 
On-the-spot Harrigan said mean- 
ingfully. "He's going to need it." He 
turned and faced the eye of the 
3V camera. "Yes folks," he went 
on, "he's going to need it real bad. 
For our minions of the law have 
him safely in custody, and Mr. Dis- 
trict Attorney assures me that he'll 
have this infamous scoundrel shack- 
led in the brig of the prison ship 
before Turn-In Friday." 

Brett toed off the set and re- 
turned to his breakfast. He won- 
dered what Linda would have to 
say regarding this new develop- 
ment. 

She didn't say anything about it. 
She was pale and listless when he 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 



picked her up that night, and all 
she wanted to do was ride on the 
Raceway. He couldn't drive fast 
enough to suit her. 

Brett was disgusted. He'd 
planned to propose to her, but you 
couldn't propose to a girl while you 
were hurtling at a one hundred 
thirty mile per hour clip through 
a veritable river of cars. He decided 
to wait till he took her home, but 
when he pulled up before Building 
14 she got out of the car before he 
had a chance to say a word; then, 
as though remembering his exis- 
tence, she leaned through the open 
window and kissed him warmly on 
the lips. "I know I've been terribly 
poor company," she said. "But I'll 
make up for it tomorrow night." 

"Promise?" Brett said. 

"Promise!" 

And then she was gone and he 
was sitting alone in the car. It be- 
gan to rain and he drove home in 
the rain, wondering if he was going 
to get the Bluebird after all. 

There was only one day left. 

He proposed to her the next 
night. He didn't wait for the right 
moment, the right background, the 
right anything. Time was running 
out, and not only that, there was a 
desperation inside him that he 
could not analyze, that he was 
afraid to analyze. "Will you marry 
me, Linda?" he said when she an- 
swered his knock. 

She paused in the doorway, love- 
ly in her white dress. She did not 
close the door behind her as she 
had the night before and he could 
see the bare peeling walls of the 
apartment behind her. 

CHROME PASTURES 



She said: 

"You can't be serious, Mark!" 

"Yes I can." The huskiness of 
his voice surprised him. His words 
sounded sincere even to himself. 

Apparently they sounded sincere 
to Linda too, for she said, "When?" 

"Right now," Brett said. His 
heart was pounding painfully and 
it was all he could do to keep from 
taking her in his arms and kissing 
away whatever objections she might 
have. His passion for the Bluebird 
astonished him; he could not re- 
call a time when the prospect of 
getting a car had had so profound 
an effect upon his emotions. 

"You forgot one thing," Linda 
said. "When you propose to a girl 
you're supposed to tell her you love 
her." 

Her large limpid eyes were on 
his face as though daring him to 
say the words. A little ways down 
the hall a husband-wife fight was 
in progress, and from somewhere 
nearby a baby was squalling lustily. 
But even though the background 
was definitely detrimental to ro- 
mance, Brett found that he could 
say the words easily. 

"I love you," he said. 

Her eyes dropped then. "I'll get 
my things," she said. 

She had pitifully few belong- 
ings: an armful of clothes, a hand- 
ful of trinkets, and a half dozen 
books. Most of the books, Brett 
noticed, were written by the same 
author — someone named Freud. He 
helped her carry them down to the 
car. 

By ten o'clock they were man 
and wife, thanks to the efficiency 
of the marriage processing bureau 

91 



which was open twenty-four hours 
a day. Across the street from the 
marriage bureau was the separa- 
tion bureau which maintained the 
same hours and the same efficiency. 

"I think the occasion calls for 
champagne," Brett said. 

"But darling, it's fabulously ex- 
pensive." 

"We aren't going to drink an 
ocean of it. Just a glass or two. I've 
got the midnight turn tonight, so 
that's all we'll have time for any- 
way." 

He chose a glittering bar on the 
business boulevard not far from the 
Seneca Cathedral. Czech was there, 
sipping a Dream Girl at the bar. 
Brett waved to him as he ushered 
Linda to a private table, and Czech 
waved back, his eyes protuberant 
with surprise. Linda gave a little 
start when Czech's eyes met hers. 
She glanced away quickly. At first 
Brett felt self-conscious about being 
out with a White Collar girl; then 
he remembered that this particular 
girl was his wife and his self-con- 
sciousness was supplanted by pride. 
His pride, in turn, was supplanted 
by bewilderment : why in the world 
should he feel proud of Linda? 

The inevitable 3V screen iri- 
desced behind the bar, strategically 
located so that it was visible — and 
audible — to every customer in the 
place. Brett didn't want to watch 
3V, but when he saw the direction 
Linda's eyes had taken, his own 
eyes followed. 

A bulletin had just been issued. 
The Construction Engineer had 
been tried, found guilty of car- 
desecration, and sentenced to hard 
labor for the rest of his life in the 



Foundation mines. Two car thieves 
had received similar sentences at 
the same tribunal, and all three 
sentences were to be carried out im- 
mediately. 

The scene shifted from the studio 
and the announcer to the space- 
port. On-the-spot Harrigan was 
standing at the foot of a mobile 
Jacob's lift. On the platform of the 
lift stood three men manacled to- 
gether. Brett recognized the man 
in the middle as the Construction 
Engineer. 

"You cannot sin against your 
society and survive," On-the-spot 
Harrigan said sententiously. "The 
three prisoners you see standing be- 
fore you have cheated on the Ride 
and now they must pay the Chauf- 
feur." 

He raised one arm dramatically 
and the platform began to rise. 
The camera followed it. The three 
men stood pale and silent, their 
faces touched by starlight. Present- 
ly the bright rectangle of the open 
lock came into view and the plat- 
form stopped. Two guards stepped 
forth and ushered the prisoners 
into the ship. The lock swung shut 
and the scene faded out. 

Brett became aware of Linda's 
fingers digging into his wrist. When 
he turned to her the whiteness of 
her face frightened him. 

"That ship," she said. "It's the 
one we saw that night we parked 
on that hill, isn't it?" 

"That's the one," Brett said. "It 
blasts at dawn tomorrow — 

"And the hill we were parked 
on. What was its name?" 

"Skull Hill. You haven't touched 
your champagne." 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 



"Skull Hill. Of course. The pat- 
tern was too perfect, it might never 
occur again. The fool, the poor, 
pitiful fool . . ." 

Her eyes glistened oddly in the 
rose-tinted light of the table lamp. 
Brett looked at her for a moment, 
wanting to question her, and yet re- 
luctant to question her because he 
was afraid he might get answers he 
did not want to hear. Out of the 
corner of his eye he saw that Czech 
was looking at her too, staring at 
her as though he couldn't get over 
the fact that his turn buddy had 
fallen for a White Collar girl. 

Again the sequence of self-con- 
sciousness, pride, and bewilderment 
ran its gamut of Brett's emotions. 
But this time another phase was 
added. Realization. With a shock 
he recognized his real reason for 
marrying Linda. The Bluebird, for 
all its chrome and grandeur, had 
been nothing more than a ration- 
alization, a means whereby he could 
fit an incongruous item into his 
rigid set of values. And the item 
was love . . . 

Brett stood up. "We can go home 
if you want to," he said. He took 
her arm and escorted her proudly 
to the door. He hoped that Czech 
was still watching but he did not 
turn his head to look. Suddenly he 
felt sorry for Czech. 

The 2000-2400 man had tapped 
43 and when Brett took over the 
heat was still running into the pit 
ladle. He gave 41 a drink while he 
was waiting and by the time he re- 
placed the hot metal ladle the last 
of 43's contents had run out and 
Czech was already pouring the 

CHROME PASTURES 



heat. Brett dried 43's bottom with 
the robo-shoveler and closed the 
tap hole. He started number 1 
charger on the limestone charge. 

Czech called. "Where'd you meet 
the Finance Bishop's secretary?" 

Brett had anticipated the call but 
he hadn't anticipated the question. 
He'd anticipated a number of other 
questions and he had his answers 
ready. But this one caught him un- 
prepared. 

"Whose secretary?" 

"The F. B.'s. Don't tell me you 
didn't know she works for His 
Holiness himself!" 

The control booth seemed sud- 
denly cold. 

"She's some number all right," 
Czech went on when he got no 
answer. "White Collar girl or not! 
I saw her Sunday morning when I 
went before the F. B. She was just 
leaving when I got there. I heard 
her tell His Holiness she had an im- 
portant appointment, and away she 
went! where'd you meet her?" 

The suspicion in Brett's mind 
was as yet no more than a minus- 
cule seed but it was germinating 
rapidly. "I'll tell you later," he 
said. "The scrap charge just came 
up and I've got to get it started." 

He couldn't feel his fingers they 
were so numb, but they were so 
familiar with the console of the 
r.c. panel that they directed the 
charge of their own accord. The 
whole pattern of Linda's deceit 
emerged and arrayed itself mock- 
ingly before his eyes. She had 
known about the Finance Bishop's 
new restriction long before anyone 
else — months in advance, probably 
— and she had seen in it an oppor- 

93 



tunity to escape from the sidewalks 
to the boulevard, from the crum- 
bling canyons of Center City to the 
idyllic garages of Peripheral City, 
from poverty to security ; and above 
all she had seen an opportunity to 
get the Bluebird. 

As secretary to the Finance Bish- 
op she had access to the dossier of 
every car owner in the city. She 
had known which marriageable car 
owners would be affected by the 
new restriction and to find the most 
likely prospect she had merely 
needed to study their character 
analyses, their personal histories, 
and their financial statuses. 

She had finally narrowed the 
prospects down — probably after a 
great deal of deliberation — to a sin- 
gle name : Marcus Brett. 

As secretary to the Finance Bish- 
op she also had access to the floor 
plan of every cathedral in the city. 
To arrange a meeting at the most 
opportune moment all she had had 
to do was vacate the seat next to 
Brett's. This she had done by de- 
liberately neglecting to process 
Czech's last ten payments, by call- 
ing the Finance Bishop's attention 
to Czech's payment record a day or 
two before Display Sunday, and by 
coinciding Czech's appointment 
with the Finance Bishop with the 
unveiling of the Bluebird. 

The rest had been a gamble — a 
gamble abetted by a perfume that 
was probably aphrodisiacal, a baby 
face, a goddess-figure, and a pro- 
ficiency in the art of dissimulation. 

Brett's fingers were no longer 
numb. They were taut and pur- 
poseful, depressing combinations of 
switches with cold efficiency. He 

94 



took a test bar of 41. He filled the 
manganese pan for 43. He gave 42 
a shot of spar. 

The pit phone rang. Brett let it 
ring. 



WHEN BRETT got home that 
morning Linda had disap- 
peared. The windows of the over- 
head apartment were gray with 
dawn and the bulletin bulb was 
buzzing angrily. When he went into 
the living room Brett saw the fold- 
ed sheet of paper propped before 
the 3V screen. Wonderingly, he 
picked it up and unfolded it. He 
read the hastily written words in 
the red light of the bulletin bulb: 

Dear Mark, 

Czech recognized me tonight and 
by now he has probably told you 
where he saw me. No doubt you've 
guessed part of the truth and no 
doubt you hate me. When I tell 
you the whole truth you will de- 
spise me. 

Five years ago my mother was 
horribly mutilated in a ten car 
pileup on the Raceway. She lived 
for almost a year, if you can call 
existence without a face, without 
sight, without hearing, without 
vocal chords, living. My father 
never left her side. The only sound 
she ever made was a thin whis- 
tling sound. I heard it only once. He 
must have heard it many times. My 
father is the Construction Engineer. 

After my mother's death, he 
went back to work. That is, part of 
him went back to work. The rest of 
him brooded. He did not break 
down till a year ago at the laying 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 



of the cornerstone of the Seneca 
Memorial Trust Building, and he 
did not break down then, really; 
the inner part of him took over — 
the part that had exhaustively sys- 
tematized the factors that resulted 
in my mother's death and dis- 
covered that society was to blame. 

I reacted to my mother's death 
differently. I was young and I had 
only heard the whistling sound 
once. To me my mother's death 
was tragic, but I did not hold socie- 
ty responsible. Society was nothing 
more to me than a musty concept 
and had nothing to do with the 
glittering galaxy of objects almost 
within my reach — objects made all 
the more desirable by my father's 
refusal to let me touch them. 

Shortly after my mother's ac- 
cident I was taken out of tech 
school and forbidden to ride in any 
kind of car whatsoever. My friends 
refused to associate with me; the 
world I had taken for granted came 
tumbling down around me. Own- 
ing a car of my own became more 
than a conditioned reflex for me: 
it became an obsession. 

I was twenty-one when my father 
began his symbolical acts. That 
was when I left home. I never saw 
him again till last week when he 
came to Center City and asked me 
to hide him from the police. Yes- 
terday morning he left the apart- 
ment and committed his penulti- 
mate symbolic act — the overturn- 
ing of the tables in the "temple". 

When I left home there was no 
place for me to go except Center 
City. (All my near relatives are list- 
ed in the traffic fatality files). My 
technical education had been cut 

CHROME PASTURES 



short, so I couldn't obtain a re- 
spectable position; however, I was 
literate enough to obtain a white 
collar job, and I finally did obtain 
one — with the Finance Bishop. 

I had only one aim in life — to 
get a car. The opportunity I had 
been waiting for turned up two 
months ago when the Finance 
Bishop drafted his new restriction. 
I selected you as the most logical 
prospect and contrived to meet you. 
That much you probably know al- 
ready. What you don't know is 
that part of the F.B.'s restriction 
never got through to the Dealers — 
the proviso that reads: "Any person 
who has defaulted on more than 
two payments during the recent 
caryear and who chooses alternative 
number 2 (marriage) must agree 
to forfeit his or her purchase to his 
or her marriage partner in the 
event of a divorce or an annul- 
ment." I saw to it that it didn't go 
through — but it'll be a part of the 
contract you'll sign tomorrow. 

Now you merely hate me. But in 
a moment you'll despise me. 

When you were eight you fell in 
love with your mother. You fell 
in love with her in an apple or- 
chard on an afternoon in June, 
and the apple trees were in blos- 
som. It's all there in your dossier. 
Finance psycho-analysts, like all 
psycho-analysts, are primarily in- 
terested in the Oedipal phase, even 
when it is normal. 

All children fall in love with 
their sexually opposite parent at 
one time or another, and to a vary- 
ing degree, carry the parent's imago 
in their mind. But the imago is not 
merely a mental picture of the 

95 



parent: it is a composite memory^ 
a memory compounded of sur- 
roundings and sound; of sight and 
smell and taste. 

My perfume called your mother 
to your mind, whether you were 
aware of it or not. The taste of her 
lip rouge was enough to complete 
the illusion (1 had access to her 
dossier too, and I had the rouge 
made especially.) The combined 
attack upon the two senses brought 
back the feeling of security and love 
which you once felt in your moth- 
er's presence, and reawakened your 
idealization of her. Arid you trans- 
ferred that idealization to me. 

In retrospect it seems fantastic 
that I should have gone to such 
extremes to acquire an object 
which, now that I can acquire it, 
means utterly nothing to me. 

When you sign the contract to- 
morrow you needn't worry about 
the proviso. I don't want the Blue- 
bird. I was glossing over the truth 
when I said that the apotheosis of 
the automobile wasn't any more ab- 
normal than the fertility rites of the 
ancient Egyptians or the worship 
of the rain gods by the Zuni. I 
wanted to prove to you — and there- 
by prove to myself — that my father 
was wrong in his denunciation of 
the Church of the Happy Traveler. 
Fear of hunger seldom gives birth 
to noble concepts, and hucksters 
are poor substitutes for men of God. 
My father was right in everything 
he said. 

You're wondering by now what 
made me change my mind, and 
why I'm writing this. I have been 
sitting here in this absurd over- 
head apartment ever since you left, 

96 



thinking of how clever I have been. 
But I forgot one thing — -the most 
important thing of all. I forgot 
that I, too, had been a child once, 
and that I had fallen in love with 
my sexually opposite parent. 

Do you know when I fell in love 
with my father, Mark? I fell in 
love with him the first time he 
took me riding on the Raceway. 

Linda 

Brett stood in the gray room 
waiting for the hatred to rise in 
him. He stood there waiting for a 
long time, cold and empty. Present- 
ly he became aware of the buzzing 
of the bulletin bulb and he turned 
the 3V set on and depressed the 
channel pedal till the buzzing 
stopped and the light went out. 

There on the screen before him 
was the prison ship, gaunt in the 
dawnlight. Behind it was Skull 
Hill, its blackened top a smudge 
against the pinkening sky. On the 
edge of the man-made cliff border- 
ing the blast pit stood a tiny figure 
— unidentifiable to the casual ob- 
server, unmistakable to Brett. 

His emptiness left him abruptly, 
and he realized why he had been 
unable to feel hatred. The sight of 
Linda standing there awaiting 
cremation in the backwash of the 
prison ship brought home to him 
the truth that love is a thing-in- 
itself, unrelated to the factors that 
motivate it. 

And then he was running down 
the stairs to the garage and climb- 
ing into the Seneca — and remem- 
bering, almost too late, the death 
trap he had set for thieves. 

The bullet struck Brett in the 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 



shoulder as he made a convulsive 
effort to get out of the car. He felt 
no pain, only numbness, and the 
numbness spread all through him, 
turning into rage. He bent and 
tore the deadly mechanism from 
its fastenings and hurled it, trail- 
ing wires and all, against the back 
of the garage, all the while marvel- 
ing how any human being could 
value a possession more highly 
than he valued his own life. 

He drove furiously through the 
streets of Peripheral City, finally 
gained the Raceway. With luck he 
could reach her in time and with 
more luck he could get her to safe- 
ty before the prison ship blasted. 
Just before he came to the turnoff 
he passed a four car pileup — two 
Senecas, an Oneida, and a Cortez. 
The cars were mangled and there 
were mangled bodies in them, and 
shattered glass and blood inter- 
mingled on the macadam. The sal- 
vage crew was already on the scene, 
separating flesh from metal. As 
usual, there were no survivors. 

Brett had seen a thousand pile- 
ups but none of them had ever 
bothered him. This one, why he 
did not know, horrified him. He 
kept seeing the flesh and the metal 
and the blood long after he had 
left the Raceway behind, and for 
the first time he asked himself the 
question : Why? 

The spires of the ships came into 
view against the brightening sky 
and Brett slowed. He noticed an 
acrid odor and traced it to the 
shorted wires behind the dash. His 
Seneca was on fire! His every in- 
stinct screamed for him to stop and 
extinguish the flames but the 

CHROME PASTURES 



thought of Linda standing on the 
blackened hilltop froze his foot to 
the accelerator and his eyes to the 
sky where, any moment, he expect- 
ed to see the prison ship rise on an 
incandescent geyser. 

A barrier had been erected 
across the entrance to Skull Hill 
road and a new sign said: ROAD 
WASHED OUT. Brett parked the 
Seneca on the shoulder of the high- 
way and fumbled beneath the seat 
for the fire extinguisher. Abruptly 
the Brobdingnagian voice of the 
port tower came to life — 

"The Gethsemane now blasting 
from pit 32. Payload: sixty pris- 
oners for occupational assignment. 
Destination: Alpha Crucis Four- 
teen. . . 

"One minute — " 

Brett stood paralyzed, the fire 
extinguisher in his hands. 

"Fifty-nine seconds — " 

Without a car as a down pay- 
ment he would never be able to buy 
the Bluebird. 

"Fifty-eight seconds — " 

He would lose his job, his garage, 
his social status — 

"Fifty-seven seconds — " 

Everything he had valued so 
highly, everything — except Linda — 

"Fifty-six seconds — " 

The fire extinguisher slipped 
from Brett's fingers and he began 
running up the hill. As he ran, a 
burden slipped from his shoulders 
and his heart found a new rhythm 
— a cadence that pounded through 
his whole body apprising his every 
cell of the new freedom. 

"Nineteen seconds — " 

He glimpsed the hull of the 
(Continued on page 120) 

97 




Illustrated by Paul Orban 



love story 



Everything was aimed at satisfying the whims of women. 
The popular cliches, the pretty romances, the catchwords 
of advertising became realities; and the compound kept 



the men enslaved. George knew what he had to do 

98 



BY IRVING E. COX, JR. 



THE DUTY bell rang and 
obediently George clattered 
down the steps from his confine- 
ment cubicle over the garage. His 
mother's chartreuse-colored Cadil- 
lac convertible purred to a stop in 
the drive. 

"It's so sweet of you to come, 
Georgie," his mother said when 
George opened the door for her. 

"Whenever you need me, Mum- 
my." It was no effort at all to keep 
the sneer out of his voice. Decep- 
tion had become a part of his char- 
acter. 

His mother squeezed his arm. "I 
can always count on my little boy 
to do the right thing." 

"Yes, Mummy." They were 
mouthing a formula of words. They 
were both very much aware that if 
George hadn't snapped to attention 
as soon as the duty bell rang, he 
risked being sentenced, at least 
temporarily, to the national hero's 
corps. 

Still in the customary, martyr's 
whisper, George's mother said, 
"This has been such a tiring day. 
A man can never understand what 
a woman has to endure, Georgie; 
my life is such an ordeal." Her tone 
turned at once coldly practical. 
"I've two packages in the trunk; 
carry them to the house for me." 

George picked up the cardboard 
boxes and followed her along the 
brick walk in the direction of the 
white, Colonial mansion where his 
mother and her two daughters and 
her current husband lived. George, 



being a boy, was allowed in the 
house only when his mother in- 
vited him, or when he was being 
shown off to a prospective bride. 
George was nineteen, the most ac- 
ceptable marriage age; because he 
had a magnificent build and the 
reputation for being a good boy, 
his mother was rumored to be ask- 
ing twenty thousand shares for him. 

As they passed the rose arbor, 
his mother dropped on the wooden 
seat and drew George down beside 
her. "I've a surprise for you, 
George — a new bidder. Mrs. Har- 
per is thinking about you for her 
daughter." 

"Jenny Harper?" Suddenly his 
throat was dust dry with excite- 
ment. 

"You'd like that, wouldn't you, 
Georgie?" 

"Whatever arrangement you 
make, Mummy." Jenny Harper 
was one of the few outsiders George 
had occasionally seen as he grew 
up. She was approximately his age, 
a stunning, dark-eyed brunette. 

"Jenny and her mother are com- 
ing to dinner to talk over a mar- 
riage settlement." Speculatively she 
ran her hand over the tanned, 
muscle-hard curve of his upper 
arm. "You're anxious to have your 
own woman, aren't you, George?" 

"So I can begin to work for her. 
Mummy." That, at least, was the 
correct answer, if not an honest 
one. 

"And begin taking the com- 
pound every day." His mother 
smiled. "Oh, I know you wicked 
boys! Put on your dress trunks to- 
night. We want Jenny to see you at 
your best." 



99 



She got up and strode toward the 
house again. George followed re- 
spectfully two paces behind her. As 
they passed beyond the garden 
hedge, she saw the old business 
coupe parked in the delivery court. 
Her body stiffened in anger. "Why 
is your father home so early, may I 
ask?" It was an accusation, rather 
than a question. 

"I don't know, Mother. I heard 
my sisters talking in the yard; I 
think he was taken sick at work." 

"Sick! Some men never stop 
pampering themselves." 

"They said it was a heart attack 
or — 

"Ridiculous; he isn't dead, is he? 
Georgie, this is the last straw. I in- 
tend to trade your father in today 
on a younger man." She snatched 
the two packages from him and 
stormed into the house. 

Since his mother hadn't asked 
him in, George returned to his 
confinement cubicle in the garage. 
He felt sorry, in an impersonal way, 
for the husband his mother was 
about to dispose of, but otherwise 
the fate of the old man was quite 
normal. He had outlived his eco- 
nomic usefulness; George had seen 
it happen before. His real father 
had died a natural death — from 
strain and overwork — when George 
was four. His mother had since 
then bought four other husbands; 
but, because boys were brought up 
in rigid isolation, George had 
known none of them well. For the 
same reason, he had no personal 
friends. 

He climbed the narrow stairway 
to his cubicle. It was already late 
afternoon, almost time for dinner. 

100 



He showered and oiled his body 
carefully, before he put on his dress 
trunks, briefs made of black silk 
studded with seed pearls and small 
diamonds. He was permitted to 
wear the jewels because his moth- 
er's stockholdings were large 
enough to make her an Associate 
Director. His family status gave 
George a high marriage value and 
his Adonis physique kicked the ask- 
ing price still higher. At nineteen 
he stood more than six feet tall, 
even without his formal, high- 
heeled boots. He weighed one hun- 
dred and eighty-five, not an ounce 
of it superfluous fat. His skin was 
deeply bronzed by the sunlamps in 
the gym; his eyes were sapphire 
blue; his crewcut was a platinum 
blond— thanks to the peroxide 
wash his mother made him use. 

Observing himself critically in 
the full-length mirror, George knew 
his mother was justified in asking 
twenty thousand shares for him. 
Marriage was an essential part of 
his own plans; without it revenge 
was out of his reach. He desperate- 
ly hoped the deal would be made 
with Jenny Harper. A young wom- 
an would be far less difficult for 
him to handle. 

When the oil on his skin was dry, 
he lay down on his bunk to 
catch up on his required viewing 
until the duty bell called him to 
the house. The automatic circuit 
snapped on the television screen 
above his bunk; wearily George 
fixed his eyes on the unreeling love 
story. 

For as long as he could remem- 
ber, television had been a fun- 
damental part of his education. A 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 



federal law required every male to 
watch the TV romances three hours 
a day. Failure to do so — and that 
was determined by monthly form 
tests mailed out by the Directorate 
— meant a three month sentence to 
the national hero's corps. If the 
statistics periodically published by 
the Directorate were true, George 
was a relatively rare case, having 
survived adolescence without serv- 
ing a single tour of duty as a 
national hero. For that he indirect- 
ly thanked his immunity to the 
compound. Fear and guilt kept him 
so much on his toes, he grew up an 
amazingly well-disciplined child. 

George was aware that the tele- 
vision romances were designed to 
shape his attitudes and his emo- 
tional reactions. The stories end- 
lessly repeated his mother's philos- 
ophy. All men were pictured as 
beasts crudely dominated by lust. 
Women, on the other hand, were 
always sensitive, delicate, modest, 
and intelligent; their martyrdom to 
the men in their lives was called 
love. To pay for their animal lusts, 
men were expected to slave away 
their lives earning things — kitchen 
gadgets, household appliances, 
fancy cars, luxuries and stockhold- 
ings — for their patient, long-suffer- 
ing wives. 

And it's all a fake! George 
thought. He had seen his Mother 
drive two men to their graves and 
trade off two others because they 
hadn't produced luxuries as fast as 
she demanded. His mother and his 
pinch-faced sisters were pampered, 
selfish, rock-hard Amazons; by no 
conceivable twist of imagination 
could they be called martyrs to 

LOVE STORY 



anything. 

That seemed self-evident, but 
George had no way of knowing if 
any other man had ever reasoned 
out the same conclusion. Maybe he 
was unique because of his immuni- 
ty to the compound. He was sure 
that very few men— possibly none 
— had reached marriage age with 
their immunity still undiscovered. 

George was lucky, in a way: he 
knew the truth about himself when 
he was seven, and he had time to 
adjust to it — to plan the role he 
had been acting for the past twelve 
years. His early childhood had been 
a livid nightmare, primarily because 
of the precocious cruelty of his two 
sisters. Shortly before his seventh 
birthday they forced him to take 
part in a game they called cocktail 
party. The game involved only one 
activity: the two little girls filled a 
glass with an unidentified liquid, 
and ordered George to drink. After- 
ward, dancing up and down in 
girlish glee, they said they had 
given him the compound. 

George had seen the love stories 
on television; he knew how he was 
expected to act. He gave a good 
performance — better than his sis- 
ters realized, for inside his mind 
George was in turmoil. They had 
given him the compound (true, 
years before he should have taken 
it), and nothing had happened. He 
had felt absolutely nothing; he was 
immune ! If anyone had ever found 
out, George would have been given 
a life sentence to the national 
hero's corps; or, more probably, 
the Morals Squad would have dis- 
posed of him altogether. 

101 



From that day on, George lived 
with guilt and fear. As the years 
passed, he several times stole cap- 
sules of the compound from his 
mother's love-cabinet and gulped 
them down. Sometimes he felt a 
little giddy, and once he was sick. 
But he experienced no reaction 
which could possibly be defined as 
love. Not that he had any idea 
what that reaction should have 
been, but he knew he was supposed 
to feel very wicked and he never 
did. 

Each failure increased the agony 
of guilt; George drove himself to 
be far better behaved than he was 
required to be. He dreaded making 
one mistake. If his mother or a 
Director examined it too closely, 
they might find out his real secret. 

George's basic education began 
when he was assigned to his con- 
finement room above the garage 
after his tenth birthday. There- 
after his time was thoroughly reg- 
ulated by law. Three hours a day 
he watched television; three hours 
he spent in his gym, building a 
magnificent — and salable — body; 
for four hours he listened to the 
educational tapes. Arithmetic, eco- 
nomics, salemanship, business tech- 
niques, accounting, mechanics, 
practical science : the things he had 
to know in order to earn a satis- 
factory living for the woman who 
bought him in marriage. 

He learned nothing else and as 
he grew older he became very con- 
scious of the gaps in his education. 
For instance, what of the past? 
Had the world always been this 
sham he lived in? That question he 
had the good sense not to ask. 

102 



But George had learned enough 
from his lessons in practical science 
to guess what the compound really 
was, what it had to be: a mixture 
of aphrodisiacs and a habit-forming 
drug. The compound was calculat- 
ed to stir up a man's desire to the 
point where he would give up any- 
thing in order to satisfy it. Boys 
were given increased doses during 
their adolescence; by the time they 
married, they were addicts, unable 
to leave the compound alone. 

George couldn't prove his con- 
clusion. He had no idea how many 
other men had followed the same 
line of reasoning and come up with 
the same answer. But why was 
George immune? There was only 
one way he could figure it: it must 
have happened because his sisters 
gave him the first draft when he 
was seven. But logically that didn't 
make much sense. 

Bachelors were another sort of 
enemy: men who shirked their 
duty and deserted their wives. It 
seemed unreasonable to believe a 
man could desert his wife, when 
first he had to break himself of 
addiction to the compound. George 
had always supposed that bachelor 
was a boogy word contrived to 
frighten growing children. 

As a consequence, he was very 
surprised when the house next door 
was raided. Through the window 
of his confinement cubicle, he ac- 
tually saw the five gray-haired men 
who were rounded up by the Mor- 
als Squad. The Squad — heavily 
armed, six-foot Amazons — tried to 
question their captives. They used 
injections of a truth serum. Two of 
the old men died at once. The 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 



others went berserk, frothing at the 
mouth and screaming animal pro- 
fanity until the Squad captain or- 
dered them shot. 

George overheard one of the 
women say, "It's always like this. 
They take something so our serum 
can't be effective." 

Later that afternoon George 
found a scrap of paper in his moth- 
er's garden. It had blown out of the 
bonfire which the Morals Squad 
made of the papers they took out of 
the house next door. The burned 
page had apparently been part of 
an informational bulletin, compiled 
by the bachelors for distribution 
among themselves. 

". . . data compiled from old 
publications," the fragment began, 
"and interpreted by our most re- 
liable authorities." At that point a 



part of the page was burned away. 
". . .and perhaps less than ninety 
years ago men and women lived m 
equality. The evidence on that 
point is entirely conclusive. The 
present matriarchy evolved by ac- 
cident, not design. Ninety years ago 
entertainment and advertising were 
exclusively directed at satisfying a 
woman's whim. No product was 
sold without some sort of tie-in 
with women. Fiction, drama, tele- 
vision, motion pictures — all glori- 
fied a romantic thing called love. 
In that same period business was in 
the process of taking over govern- 
ment from statesmen and politi- 
cians. Women, of course, were the 
stockholders who owned big busi- 
ness, although the directors and 
managers at that time were still 
men — operating under the illusion 



STATEMENT OF THE OWNERSHIP, MANAGEMENT, AND CIRCULATION REQUIRED BY THE 

ACT OF CONGRESS OF AUGUST 24, 1912, AS AMENDED BY THE ACTS OF 

MARCH 3, 19,'!3, AND JULY 2, 1946 (39 V. S. C. 233) 

Of IF, published bi-monthly at Buffalo, New York, for October 1, 1955. 

1. The names and addresses of the publisher, editor, managing editor, and business 
managers are: Publisher, Quinn Publishing Company, Inc., 17 Pearl Street, Kingston, N. Y.; 
Editor, James L. Quinn, 17 Pearl Street, Kingston, N. Y.; Managing editor. None. Business 
tnanager. None. 

2. The owner is (if owned by a corporation, its name and address must be stated and 
also immediately thereunder the names and addresses of stocicholders owning or holding 1 
per cent or more of total amount of stock) : Quinn Publishing Company, Inc., 17 Pearl Street, 
Kingston, N. Y.; James L. Quinn, 17 Pearl Street, Kingston, N. Y. 

3. The known bondholders, mortgagees, and other security holders owning or holding 1 
per cent or more of total amount of bonds, mortgages, or other securities are: None. 

4. The two _ paragraphs next above, giving the names of owners, stockholders, and 
security holders, if any, contain not only the list of stockholders and security holders as they 
appear upon the books of the company but also, in cases where the stockholders or security 
holder appears upon the books of the company as trustee or in any other fiduciary relation, 
the name of the person or corporation for whom such trustee is acting, is given; also that 
the said two paragraphs contain statements embracing affiant's full knowledge and belief as 
to the circumstances and conditions under which stockholders and security holders who do not 
appear upon the books of the company as trustees, hold stock and securities in a capacity 
other than that of a bona fide owner; and this affiant has no reason to believe that any 
other person, association, or corporation has any interest direct or indirect in the said stock, 
bonds, or other securities than as so stated by him. 

5. The average number of copies of each issue of this publication sold or distributed, 
through the mails or otherwise, to paid subscribers during the 12 months preceding the date 
shown above was: (This information is required from daily, weekly, semiweekly, and tri- 
weekly newspapers only) , 

James L. Quinn, Editor. 
Sworn to and subscribed before me this 26th day of September, 1955. 
(SEAL) Charles H. Gaffney (My commission expires March SO, 1956) 



LOVE STORY 



103 



that they were the executives who 
represented ownership. In eflfect, 
however, women owned the coun- 
try and women governed it; sud- 
denly the matriarchy existed. There 
is no evidence that it was imposed; 
there is no suggestion of civil strife 
or . . ." More words burned away. 
"However, the women were not un- 
willing to consolidate their gains. 
Consequently the popular cliches, 
the pretty romances, and the catch- 
words of advertising became a sub- 
stitute for reality. As for the 
compound . . ." 

There the fragment ended. Much 
of it George did not understand. 
But it gave him a great deal of 
courage simply to know the bache- 
lors actually existed. He began to 
plan his own escape to a bachelor 
hideout. He would have no oppor- 
tunity, no freedom of any sort, un- 
til he married. Every boy was 
rigidly isolated in his confinement 
cubicle, under the watchful eye of 
his mother's spy-cameras, until he 
was bought in his first marriage. 

Then, as he thought more about 
it, George realized there was a bet- 
ter way for him to use his immuni- 
ty. He couldn't be sure of finding 
a bachelor hideout before the Mor- 
als Squad tracked him down. But 
George could force his bride to tell 
him where the compound was 
made, since he was not an addict 
and she could not use the com- 
pound to enslave him. Once he 
knew the location of the factory, he 
would destroy it. How, he wasn't 
sure; he didn't plan that far ahead. 
If the supply of the drug could be 
interrupted, many hundreds of men 
might be goaded into making a 

104 



break for the hills. 



THE DUTY bell rang. George 
snapped to attention on the 
edge of his bunk. He saw his moth- 
er waving from the back door of 
her house. 

"I'll be down right away, Mum- 
my." 

His mother was waiting for him 
in the pantry. Under the glaring 
overhead light he stopped for her 
last minute inspection. She used a 
pocket-stick to touch up a spot on 
his chest where the oil gleam had 
faded a little. And she gave him a 
glass of the compound to drink. 

"Jenny really wants to marry 
you, George," she confided. "I 
know the symptoms; half our bat- 
tle's won for us. And my former 
husband won't be around to worry 
us with his aches and pains. I made 
the trade this afternoon." 

He followed her into the dining 
room where the cocktails were be- 
ing served. Aside from the Harpers, 
George's mother had rented two 
handsome, muscular escorts for his 
sisters. In the confusion, George 
saw Jenny Harper's mother stealth- 
ily lace his water glass with a dose 
of the compound. He suppressed a 
grin. Apparently she was anxious 
to complete the deal, too. 

George found it almost impos- 
sible to hold back hilarious laughter 
when Jenny herself shyly pressed a 
capsule of the compound into his 
hand and asked him to use it. 
Three full-size slugs of the drug! 
George wondered what would have 
happened if he hadn't been im- 
mune. Fortunately, he knew how 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 



to act the lusty, eager, drooling 
male which each of the women ex- 
pected. 

The negotiations moved along 
without a hitch. George's mother 
held out for twenty-eight thousand 
shares, and got it. The only prob- 
lem left was the date for the wed- 
ding, and Jenny settled that very 
quickly. "I want my man. Mom," 
she said, "and I want him now." 

Jenny always got what she 
wanted. 

When she and her mother left 
that evening, she held George's 
hand in hers and whispered ear- 
nestly, "So they were married and 
lived happily ever after. That's the 
way it's going to be with us, isn't it, 
George?" 

"It's up to you, Jenny; for as 
long as you want me." 

That was the conventional an- 
swer which he was expected to 
make, but he saw unmasked disap- 
pointment in her face. She wanted 
something more genuine, with more 
of himself in it. He felt suddenly 
sorry for her, for the way he was 
going to use her. She was a pretty 
girl, even sweet and innocent — if 
those words still had any real mean- 
ing left after what his mother's 
world had done to them. Under 
other circumstances, George would 
have looked forward with keen 
pleasure to marrying Jenny. As it 
was, Jenny Harper was first a sym- 
bol of the fakery he intended to 
destroy, and after that a woman. 

Five days later they were mar- 
ried. In spite of the short engage- 
ment, Mrs. Harper and George's 
mother managed to put on a splen- 

LOVE STORY 



did show in the church. George re- 
ceived a business sedan from his 
mother, the traditional gift given 
every bridegroom; and from Mrs. 
Harper he received a good job in 
a company where she was the ma- 
jority stockholder. And so, in the 
customary pageantry and cere- 
mony, George became Mr. Harper. 

"Think of it— Mr. Harper," Jen- 
ny sighed, clinging to his arm. 
"Now you're really mine, George." 

On the church steps the newly- 
weds posed for photographs — 
George in the plain, white trunks 
which symbolized a first marriage; 
Jenny in a dazzling cloud of fluff, 
suggestively nearly transparent. 
Then Mrs. Harper drew Jenny 
aside and whispered in her daugh- 
ter's ear: the traditional telling of 
the secret. Now Jenny knew where 
the compound was manufactured; 
and for George revenge was within 
his grasp. 

George's mother had arranged 
for their honeymoon at Memory 
Lodge, a resort not far from the 
Directorate capital in Hollywood. 
It was the national capital as well, 
though everyone conscientiously 
maintained the pretense that Wash- 
ington, with an all-male Congress, 
still governed the country. George 
considered himself lucky that his 
mother had chosen Memory Lodge. 
He had already planned to dese'rt 
Jenny in the mountains. 

George knew how to drive; his 
mother had wanted him to do a 
great deal of chauffeuring for her. 
But he had never driven beyond 
town, and he had never driven any- 
where alone. His mother gave him 
a map on which his route to the 

105 



lodge was indicated in bright red. 
In the foothills George left the 
marked highway on a paved side 
road. 

He gambled that Jenny wouldn't 
immediately realize what he had 
done, and the gamble paid off. 
Still wearing her nearly transparent 
wedding gown, she pressed close 
to him and ran her hands con- 
stantly over his naked chest, thor- 
oughly satisfied with the man she 
had bought. In the church George 
had been given a tall glass of the 
compound; he acted the part Jen- 
ny expected. 

But it was far less a role he 
played than George wanted to ad- 
mit. His body sang with excitement. 
He found it very difficult to hold 
the excitement in check. If he had 
been addicted to the compound, it 
would have been out of the ques- 
tion. More than ever before he 
sympathized with the men who 
were enslaved by love. In spite of 
his own immunity, he nearly yield- 
ed to the sensuous appeal of her 
caress. He held the wheel so hard 
his knuckles went white; he 
clenched his teeth until his jaw 
ached. 

All afternoon George drove aim- 
less mountain roads, moving deeper 
into the uninhabited canyons. Care- 
fully judging his distances with an 
eye on the map, he saw to it that 
he remained relatively close to the 
city; after he forced Jenny to give 
him the information he wanted, he 
wanted to be able to get out fast. 

By dusk the roads he drove were 
no longer paved. Ruts carved deep 
by spring rains suggested long dis- 
use. The swaying of the car and the 

106 



constant grinding of gears even- 
tually jolted Jenny out of her ro- 
mantic dreams. She moved away 
from George and sat looking at the 
pines which met above the road. 

"We're lost, aren't we?" she 
asked. 

"What's that?" he shouted to be 
heard above the roar of the motor. 

"Lost!" 

For a minute or two longer he 
continued to drive until he saw an 
open space under the trees. He 
pulled the car into the clearing and 
snapped off the ignition. Then he 
looked Jenny full in the face and 
answered her. "No, Jenny, we 
aren't lost; I know exactly what 
I'm doing." 

"Oh." He was sure she had un- 
derstood him, but she said, "We 
can spend the night here and find 
the lodge in the morning. It's a pity 
we didn't bring something to eat." 
She smiled ingenuously. "But I 
brought the compound; and we 
have each other." 

They got out of the car. Jenny 
looked up at the sunset, dull red 
above the trees, and shivered; she 
asked George to build a fire. He 
tucked the ignition key into the 
band of his white trunks and began 
to gather dry boughs and pine 
needles from the floor of the forest. 
He found several large branches 
and carried them back to the clear- 
ing. There was enough wood to 
last until morning — whether he 
stayed that long or not. Jenny had 
lugged the seats and a blanket out 
of the car and improvised a lean-to 
close to the fire. 

He piled on two of the larger 
branches and the bright glow of 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 



flame lit their faces. She beckoned 
to him and gave him a bottle of the 
compound, watching bright-eyed as 
he emptied it. 

With her lips parted, she waited. 
He did nothing. Slowly the light 
died in her eyes. Like a savage she 
flung herself into his arms. He 
steeled himself to show absolutely 
no reaction and finally she drew 
away. Trembling and with tears in 
her eyes, she whispered, "The com- 
pound doesn't—" The look of pain 
in her eyes turned to terror. 
"You're immune!" 

"Now you know." 

"But who told you — " She 
searched his face, shaking her head. 
"You don't know, do you — not 
really?" 

"Know what?" 

Instead of replying, she asked, 
"You brought me here deliberately, 
didn't you?" 

"So we wouldn't be interrupted. 
You see, Jenny, you're going to tell 
me where the compound's made." 

"It wouldn't do you any good. 
Don't you see—" He closed his 
hands on her wrists and jerked her 
rudely to her feet. He saw her face 
go white. And no wonder: that 
magnificent, granite hard body, 
which she had bought in good faith 
for her own pleasure, was suddenly 
out of her control. He grinned. He 
crushed her mouth against his and 
kissed her. Limp in his arms, she 
clung to him and said in a choked, 
husky whisper, "I love you, 
George." 

"And you'll make any sacrifice 
for love," he replied, mocking the 
dialogue of the television love 
stories. 

LOVE STORY 



"Yes, anything!" 

"Then tell me where the com- 
pound's manufactured." 

"Hold me close, George; never 
let me go." 

How many times had he heard 
that particular line! It sickened 
him, hearing it now from Jenny; he 
had expected something better of 
her. He pushed her from him. By 
accident his fist raked her face. She 
fell back blood trickling from her 
mouth. In her eyes he saw shock 
and a vague sense of pain ; but both 
were overridden by adoration. She 
was like a whipped puppy, ready to 
lick his hand. 

"I'll tell you, George," she whis- 
pered. "But don't leave me." She 
pulled herself to her feet and stood 
beside him, reaching for his hand. 
"We make it in Hollywood, in the 
Directorate Building, the part that 
used to be a sound stage." 

"Thanks, Jenny." He picked up 
one of the car seats and walked 
back to the sedan. She stood mo- 
tionless watching him. He fitted the 
seat in place and put the key in the 
lock. The starter ground away, but 
the motor did not turn over. 

He glanced back at Jenny. She 
was smiling inscrutably, "You see, 
George, you have to stay with me." 

He got out of the car and moved 
toward her. 

"I was afraid you were planning 
to desert me," she went on, "so I 
took out the distributor cap while 
you were getting the firewood." 

He stood in front of her. Coldly 
he demanded, "Where did you put 
it, Jenny?" 

She tilted her lips toward his. 
"Kiss and tell — ^maybe." 

W7 



"I haven't time for games. 
Where is it?" 

His fist shot out. Jenny sprawled 
on the ground at his feet. Again he 
saw the pain and the adoration in 
her face. But that couldn't be 
right. She would hate him by this 
time. 

He yanked her to her feet. Her 
lips were still bleeding and blood 
came now from a wound in her 
cheek. Yet she managed to smile 
again. 

"I don't want to hurt you, Jen- 
ny," he told her. "But I have to 
have—" 

"I love you, George. I never 
thought I'd want to give myself 
to a man. All the buying doesn't 
make any difference, does it? Not 
really. And I never knew that be- 
fore!" 

With an unconscious movement, 
she kicked her train aside and he 
saw the distributor cap lying be- 
neath it. He picked it up. She flung 
herself at him screaming. He felt 
the hammer beat of her heart; her 
fingers dug into his back like cat 
claws. Now it didn't matter. He 
had the secret; he could go when- 
ever he wanted to. Nonetheless he 
pushed her away — tenderly, and 
with regret. To surrender like this 
was no better than a capitulation 
to the compound. It was instinc- 
tively important to make her un- 
derstand that. He knew that much, 
but his emotions were churned too 
close to fever pitch for him to rea- 
son out what else that implied. 

He clipped her neatly on the jaw 
and put her unconscious body on 
the ground by the fire. He left the 
map with her so she could find her 

108 



way out in the morning; he knew 
it was really a very short hike to a 
highway, where she would be 
picked up by a passing car or truck. 

He drove out the way he had 
come in — at least he tried to re- 
member. Four times he took a 
wrong turn and had to backtrack. 
It was, therefore, dawn before he 
reached the outskirts of Hollywood. 
In any other city he would not 
have been conspicuous — simply a 
man on his way to work; only 
women slept late. However, Holly- 
wood was off-limits to every male. 
The city was not only the seat of 
the Directorate, but the manufac- 
turing center for the cosmetics in- 
dustry. And since that gave women 
her charm, it was a business no 
man worked at. 

George had to have a disguise. 
He stopped on a residential street, 
where the people were still likely to 
be in their beds. He read names on 
mail boxes until he found a house 
where an unmarried woman lived. 
He had no way of knowing if she 
had a husband on approval with 
her, but the box was marked 
"Miss." With any luck he might 
have got what he wanted without 
disturbing her, but the woman was 
a light sleeper and she caught him 
as he was putting on the dress. He 
was sorry he had to slug her, but 
she gave him no resistance. A spark 
of hope, a spark of long-forgotten 
youth glowed in her eyes; before 
she slid into unconsciousness. 

Wearing the stolen dress, which 
fit him like a tent, and an enor- 
mous hat to hide his face, George 
parked his sedan near the Direc- 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 



torate and entered the building 
when it opened at eight. In room 
after room automatons demonstrat- 
ed how to dress correctly; robot 
faces displayed the uses of cos- 
metics. There were displays of kit- 
chen gadgets, appliances, and other 
heavy machinery for the home; re- 
corded lectures on stock manage- 
ment and market control. Here 
women came from every part of 
the country for advice, help and 
guidance. Here the Top Directors 
met to plan business policy, to gov- 
ern the nation, and to supervise the 
production of the compound. For 
only the Top Directors — less than 
a dozen women — actually knew the 
formula. Like their stockholdings, 
the secret was hereditary, passed 
from mother to daughter. 

George searched every floor of 
the building, but found nothing ex- 
cept exhibit rooms. Time passed, 
and still he did not find what he 
had come for. More and more 
women crowded in to see the ex- 
hibits. Several times he found new- 
comers examining him oddly; he 
found he had to avoid the crowds. 

Eventually he went down steps 
into the basement, though a door 
marked "Keep Out." The door was 
neither locked nor guarded, but 
there was a remote chance it might 
lead to the production center for 
the compound. In the basement 
George found a mechanical opera- 
tion underway; at first he took it 
for another cosmetic exhibit. Con- 
veyor belts delivered barrels of fla- 
voring syrup, alcohol and a widely 
advertised liquid vitamin com- 
pound. Machines sliced open the 
containers, dumping the contents 

LOVE STORY 



into huge vats, from which pipes 
emptied the mixture into passing 
rows of bottles. 

The bottles : suddenly George rec- 
ognized them and the truth 
dawned on him, sickeningly. Here 
was the manufacturing center for 
the compound— but it might just 
as well have been a barn in Con- 
necticut or a store window in Man- 
hattan. No man was enslaved by 
the compound, for the compound 
did not exist. He was imprisoned 
by his own sense of guilt, his own 
fear of being different. George re- 
membered his own fear and guilt: 
he knew how much a man could be 
driven to make himself conform to 
what he thought other men were 
like. 

His revenge was as foolish as the 
sham he wanted to destroy. He 
should have reasoned that out long 
ago; he should have realized it was 
impossible to have immunity to an 
addictive drug. But, no, George be- 
lieved what he saw on the television 
programs. He was victimized as 
much as any man had ever been. 

He turned blindly toward the 
stairway, and from the shadows in 
the hall the Morals Squad closed in 
around him. With a final gesture of 
defiance, he ripped ofT the stolen 
dress and the absurd hat, and stood 
waiting for the blast from their 
guns. An old woman, wearing the 
shoulder insignia of a Top Direc- 
tor, pushed through the squad and 
faced him, a revolver in her hand. 
She was neither angry nor dis- 
turbed. Her voice, when she spoke, 
was filled with pity. Pity! That was 
the final indignity. 

"Now you know the truth," she 

109 



said. "A few men always have to 
try it; and we usually let them see 
this room and find out for them- 
selves before — before we close the 
case." 

Tensely he demanded, "Just 
how much longer do you think — " 

"We can get away with thus? As 
long as men are human beings. It's 
easier to make yourself believe a lie 
if you think everyone else believes 
it, than to believe a truth you've 
found out on your own. All of us 
want more than anything else to 
be like other people. Women have 
created a world for you with tele- 
vision programs; you grow up ob- 
serving nothing else; you make 
yourself fit into the pattern. Only a 
few independent-minded charac- 
ters have the courage to accept 
their own immunity; most of them 
end up here, trying to do some- 
thing noble for the rest of man- 
kind. But you have one satisfaction, 
for what it's worth: you've been 
true to yourself." 

True to yourself. George found a 
strange comfort in the words, and 
his fear was gone. He squared his 
shoulders and faced the mouth of 
her gun. True to yourself : that was 
something worth dying for. 

He saw a flicker of emotion in 
the old woman's eyes. Admiration? 
He couldn't be sure. For at the 
moment a shot rang out from the 
end of the corridor; and the Top 
Director fell back, nursing a hand 
suddenly bright with blood. 

"Let him go." It was Jenny's 
voice. She was sheltered by a part- 
ly open door at the foot of the stair- 
way. 

"Don't be a fool," the old woman 

110, 



replied. "He's seen too much." 

"It doesn't matter. Who would 
believe him?" 

"You're upset. You don't real- 
ize—" 

"He's mine and I want him." 

"The Directorate will give you 
a refund of the purchase price." 

"You didn't understand me. I 
don't want one of your pretty au- 
tomatons; anybody can buy them 
for a few shares of stock. I want a 
man — a real man; I want to be- 
long to him." 

"He belongs to you; you bought 
bim." 

"And that's what's wrong. We 
really belong to each other." 

The old woman glanced at 
George and he saw the same flick- 
er of feeling in her eyes. And tears, 
tears of regret. Why? "We have 
you outnumbered," the old woman 
said quietly to Jenny. 

"I don't care. I have a gun; I'll 
use it as long as I'm able." 

The Morals Squad raised their 
weapons. The Director shook her 
head imperiously and they snapped 
to attention again. "If you take 
him from us," she called out to 
Jenny, "you'll be outlawed. We'll 
hunt you down, if we can." 

"I want him," Jenny persisted. 
"I don't care about the rest of it." 

The old woman nodded to 
George. He couldn't believe that 
she meant it. The Director was on 
her home ground, in her head- 
quarters building, backed by an 
armed squad of stone-faced Ama- 
zons. She had no reason to let him 

She walked beside him as he 
moved down the hall. When they 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 



were twenty feet from the guard, 
she closed her thin hand on his 
arm; her eyes swam with tears and 
she whispered, "There truly is a 
love potion. Not this nonsense we 
bottle here, but something real and 
very worthwhile. You and this girl 
have found it. I know that, from 
the way she talks. She doesn't say 
anything about ownership, and 
that's as it should be. As it has to 
be, for any of us to be happy. Hold 
tight to that all the rest of your 
life. Don't ever believe in words; 
don't fall for any more love stories; 
believe what you feel deep inside — 
what you know yourself to be true. 

"You men who learn how to 
break away are our only hope, too. 
Most of us don't see that yet. I do; 
I know what it used to be like. 
Someday there may be enough men 
with the stamina to take back the 
place of dominance that we stole 
from them. We thought we wanted 
it; for decades before we had been 
screaming about women's rights." 
Her thin lips twisted in a sneer and 
she spat her disgust. "Finally we 
took what we wanted, and it turned 
to ashes in our hands. We made our 
men playthings; we made them 
slaves. And after that they weren't 
men any more. But what we stole 
isn't the sort of thing you can hand 
back on a silver platter; you men 
have to get enough courage to take 
it away from us." 

Her grip tightened on his arm. 
"There's a fire door at the end of 
the hall ; if you push the emergency 
button, you'll close it. That will 
give you a five or ten minute start. 
I can't help you any more . . ." 

They were abreast of Jenny. She 

LOVE STORY 



seized Jenny's hand and thrust it 
into his. "Beat it, kids; there's a 
bachelor camp on the north ridge. 
You can make it. 

"And from here on in, what he 
says goes," the old woman added. 
"Don't forget that." 

"She won't," George answered, 
supremely self-assured. 

He took Jenny's arm and, turn- 
ing abruptly, they made their break 
for freedom. The Director man- 
aged to remain standing in the 
middle of the corridor, making a 
dangerous target of herself so that 
none of the Morals Squad could 
risk a shot at the fugitives. As the 
fire door clanged shut George 
looked back. He saw the old wom- 
an's lips moving in silent prayer. 




AT LAST! 

A 1956 Calendar designed specifically 
for Science Fiction Fans and Space 
Flight Enthusiasts. Each month takes 
you on an expedition to one of the 
planets or moons of the Solar Sys- 
tem, from Sun-baked Mercury to 
Frigid Pluto. 

• 12 two-color illustrations 

• Scientifically-accurate text 
with each illustration 

• Wonderful for your den 

• Printed in limited edition 

• Only $1.00 postpaid 

NOVA STUDIOS 

P.O. Box 5201 -E 
Minneapolis 7, Minnesota 

Endorsed by The Society for the 
Advancement of Space Travel 

111 




THE ODD GENRE 

(Continued from page 3) 

Otto) Binder, Dr. Keller, Hugo 
Gemsback, Ray Cummings et al. 

In retrospect Russell was amused 
at how the year 1955 had once held 
such a fatal fascination for him as 
a far distant year of mystery, glam- 
or, excitement; when robots would 
be walking the streets, the Trans- 
Atlantic Tunnel would be a reality, 
and stratorockets would ply the 
transpolar route, 90 minutes from 
New York to London. 

I must confess that 21 years ago, 
when I attended the first meeting 
of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy 
Society (then chapter #4 of the 
S.F. League), I scarcely thought 
that I'd be attending most of the 
nearly 950 meetings thru the years 
to come and be Master of Cere- 
monies (shy guy and tongue-tied 
introverted youth that I was in 
those days) at the Adult Anniver- 
sary meeting. But the Hallowe'en 
meeting of the LASFS — oldest s.f. 
organization in existence — was its 
21st birthday, and I'm sure I'll be 
at the 1000th meeting and the 
quarter century mark as well. A sa- 
lute to my pal Russ Hodgkins, Aus- 
tralian-bom fan who's the only 
other charter member of the club 
who's a "survivor" to today. And 
the Anniversary meeting itself was 
a humdinger, with the SRO sign 
hung out. Mark Clifton, Ed Clin- 
ton, Kris Neville, Mel Sturgis, Ar- 
thur J. and Wm. D. Cox, Henry 
Lee and Frank Quattrocchi were 
among the pro's present as Direc- 
trix Helen Urban, herself a selling 
sci-fi writer, banged the oaken 



gavel to call the memorable meet- 
ing together. A large number of 
congratulatory telegrams were re- 
ceived from around the world, 
among them: "A TWENTY-ONE 
GUN SALUTE TO THE 
L.A.S.F.S. SIGNED: CAPT. NE- 
MO, SECY OF THE NAVY" 
(Jules Verne's Navy, that is). 
"Congratulations on 21st Anniver- 
sary. I predict club meetings in fu- 
ture will take place regularly each 
week-day evening falling between 
Wednesday and Friday. — Nostra 
Damus." Signed Sincerely Yours, 
"NO OTHER SCIENCE FIC- 
TION CLUB IN THE WORLD 
CAN HOLD A CANDELABRA 
TO YOUR RECORD. FRITZ 
LIEBERACE." "/ have never en- 
countered a more loyal, kind, con- 
siderate; well-behaved, intelligent, 
morally straight and physically 
strong group, and my keeper says 
it's time for my electric shock treat- 
ment now. — Robespierre Bloch." 
"AMAZED AT LASFS REACH- 
ING ITS MAJORITY. OFFER 
$50,000 FOR FIRST SERIAL 
RIGHTS TO YOUR UNEX- 
PURGATED MINUTES. CORN- 
FED-DENTAL MAGAZINE." 

'ROUND-THE-WORLD Round-up: 

France: Jules Verne's "From the 
Earth to the Moon" to be filmed. 

Italy: 100th issue of beautiful 
hiweekly sci-fi magazine, Urania, 
published. 

Mexico: GIGANTURO, an 
original scientifilm script by Frank 
Quattrocchi, to be produced here 
in widescreen and technicolor. 

That's All, Folks. 



111 



Wnaf Is Your Science I. Q.? 

OCIENCE-FIGTION is not confined to realms of space. To 
O make sure you catch on the next time the hero is a "down to 
earth" scientist, test yourself on this quiz. Count 5 for each cor- 
rect answer. A score of 80 is excellent! Answers on page 71. 

1. The best conductor of electricity among the metals is . 

\ 2. What is another name for a magnetic resonance accelerator? 

3. The lighter a gas the more it diffuses. ; 

4. Who originated the theory of probability? 

5. A positron is a particle having the same mass and magnitude 
of charge as . 

6. What is the term used to describe the changing of the speed 
of a reaction brought about by the introduction of a con- 
tact agent? 

7. The density of sea water is proportional to its tem- < 

perature and increases with salinity. 

' 8. How many calories of heat are required for ice to change 

each gram of water at its melting point? [ 

9. 33,000 foot-pounds of work per minute are equal to ■ — 

horsepower. ' 

10. What term is used to describe the form of reproduction in 
which a female cell reproduces without fertilization by a 
male cell? 

11. Bottom waters of the ocean in all latitudes approach 

degrees Fahrenheit. 

il2. In which direction do light waves vibrate in relation to the 
direction in which they are traveling? 

13. Standard pressure for scientific observations is established at 

; pounds per square inch. I 

14. Which color of the spectrum has the shortest wave length? 

15. Deuterium is a form of heavy . 

I 16. How many B.T.U.'s of heat are required to raise the tem- 
; perature of one pound of water one degree? 

17. The velocity of sound increases about feet per second 

I with every centigrade degree rise in the temperature of 

I the air. 

18. Which element is used as the unit of comparison for decid- 
ing the valence numbers? 

I 19. Radiosondes are used in the study of meteorology. 

20. A Fahrenheit degree is equal to of a centigrade de- 
gree. 



^ ^^^".^^lir -4^ ■^ ^-^^^■s^ ^^ ■^■^^■^^■^■^^t'-^ ^^^ n ^^^^-^ts^*^^ ^i^ ^ 1^ ^.^ •^'■^ ^ ., I 



113 



THE EXECUTIONER 

(Continued from page 45) 

flicker that would give a split-sec- 
ond warning of her next move. 

The warning came, and he was 
ahead of it. His shot struck Ann 
high on the right shoulder. Her 
second and last bullet ploughed in- 
to the dust midway between them. 
She twisted around from the force 
of the impact, and half slipped, 
half fell from the pedestal. But she 
kept herself erect, bracing against 
the pedestal with her left hand. A 
red blotch was spreading from her 
shoulder to her breast and down 
her side. There was shock and pain 
in her eyes, but the half-smile was 
still on her lips. 

"Une!" shouted the crowd, 
counting his first shot. 

Jacques no longer needed a will 
of his own. The momentum of a 
thousand deaths swept him along, 
overpowering everything else. 

"Deux!" screamed the hundred 
thousand voices. "Deux! Deux!" 

His second shot struck Ann well 
below the left shoulder, knocking 
her away from the support of the 
pedestal, sprawling her in the dust. 
Yet so indomitable was her will 
that she brought her hands together 
and raised herself to her knees. Her 
entire upper body was covered with 
dust and spreading fingers of crim- 
son. 

"Trois!" shrieked the maddened 
crowd. "Trois! Trois!" 

Women tore away pieces of their 
clothing and waved them with 
savage abandon. 

"Trois! Trois! Trois!" 

The third shot could barely be 



heard. Ann was lifted from her 
knees and hurled backwards. She 
rolled over twice, then lay face 
downward, her fingers digging in 
the hard earth. 

With his last shot, the fierceness 
drained out of Jacques. He blinked 
like a man awakening from a hor- 
rible dream. He stared at Ann's 
shuddering body, not believing he 
could have done this. He cried out 
to her, and ran to her side with 
great, lunging steps. His body shook 
with dry sobs. 

He turned her over tenderly, 
smoothed back the tangled hair 
from her forehead, tried to wipe 
some of the dirt and bubbles of red 
from her lips. 

An FBIT man rushed toward 
them with a microphone. With one 
terrible look, Jacques sent him 
scurrying back. 

"Ann . . . Ann . . ." he cried. 
"What have I done?" 

Her glazing, pain-filled eyes 
cleared for a moment, and drew 
him closer. In them, for all the 
pain, there was peace at last. No 
reproach, no disappointment. Only 
peace. And he knew then, what he 
should always have known: That 
when a man lived as one with 
Death, he could not give less to any 
person, nor expect more. 

Ann's fingers crawled through 
the dust and touched the toe of his 
boot. Her quivering lips twisted in 
a final grimace of ecstacy. And out 
of the lonely void of the dying came 
the words he had always hoped to 
hear, and would never hear again: 

"Good night," she whispered. 
"You — were wonderful — ^my lover 
— ^my husband." • • • 



114 




SCIENCE 



BRIEFS 



Dream cars of the future will have 
practically trouble-free motors. Ex- 
periments have proved that gas tur- 
bine engines are simpler and more 
rugged and will burn almost any 
liquid fuel including kerosene and 
cheap diesel oil. The new motor, 
which operates on the pinwheel 
principle, is inherently simple, with 
none of the clutch and shift jerks 
felt even in modern cars with auto- 
matic transmissions. The engine has 
few parts, only one of which re- 
quires workmanship to close toler- 
ances. The only real moving part is 
the turbine, an efficient fan that 
converts jet blasts to turning mo- 
tion. It is easy to take apart and 
put together and packs more 
power per pound of engine than 
the piston engine of today. 

Even telegraph operators can be re- 
placed by machines. An electronic 
device is now ready that can trans- 
late international Morse code sig- 
nals from radio beeps into typed 
copy. The robot radioman can han- 
dle signals produced by hand or 
machine keying and overcomes a 
major problem by automatically 
adjusting itself to different speeds 
of transmission. It can even com- 



pensate for the sender's change of 
pace within a single message. 

A new solar cooker folds up like an 
umbrella for carrying, but inverted 
in the sun it becomes so effective in 
concentrating the sun's heat that 
hot dogs can be roasted at the 
"handle" heat focus. The fabric of 
the cooker is a special reflecting 
plastic. Picnickers of tomorrow 
will be able to carry the cooker 
with them on a sunny day and pre- 
pare lunch without fuel or flame. 

Pilots in Australia are being 
trained to fly planes that catch fall- 
ing parachute-borne rockets in mid- 
air. When the rockets begin to fall, 
a parachute opens. A plane with a 
500-foot paravane trailing slightly 
to one side then flies alongside the 
falling missile, and grapnels on the 
paravene cable grip on a cable 
trailing from the parachute. The 
"catch" is played like a fish on the 
line and the plane flies down a 
gully spanned by cables so that the 
rocket is transferred from the para- 
vane to a cable, where it swings 
until collected. 

Antibiotic-burgers may be on the 
menu at the local diner soon. The 
presence of small amounts of aureo- 
mycin will keep hamburger meat 
from spoiling several days longer 
than meat kept under refrigeration. 
Experimenters have found that as 
little as ten parts of the antibiotic 
to a million parts of hamburger 
keeps the meat in good condition 
for at least ten days. The process 
is not yet commercially usable 
since the effects of the aureomycin 



115 



on humans eating the meat has not 
yet been thoroughly studied. 

Evidence that the anti-proton ac- 
tually exists was recently an- 
nounced by the A. E.G. The nega- 
tively charged particle was created 
in the bevatron at the University 
of California, Berkeley. There is no 
known "practical" application of 
the anti-proton discovery; but it 
does verify the electrical charge 
symmetry of nature — for each 
known charged particle there is a 
particle of equal mass with opposite 
charge. A new era of nuclear re- 
search, rivaling that which led to 
the atomic bomb, is foreseen as a 
result of this anti-proton creation. 

An aerial uranium detector de- 
signed for one-man pilot prospec- 
tors has been developed. The 17- 
pound scintillation counter has an 
automatic alarm that signals the 
pilot whenever an anomaly is 
passed. The counter can also be 
provided with a strip chart pen 
recorder and two indicating meters. 

Air "traffic cops" will need more 
and more radar to keep up with 
the mammoth air jam envisioned 
in the next ten years. The Civil 
Aeronautics Commission has a ten- 
year program set up to loosen the 
jam. This includes a secondary 
radar beacon system with an air- 
borne device that returns signals so 
strong they can penetrate rain and 
fog. More important, the device 
returns a coded impulse for posi- 
tive indentification of the plane. 
The new set up should be ready for 
installation early in 1957. 

116 



Trackless wastelands will be broad 
highways for a new truck-train 
with huge balloon-like tires. The 
cross country carrier can criss- 
cross the deserts, glide through 
jungles and roll over arctic snow 
without bogging down. Cars in the 
train are connected mechanically 
by a steering arrangement that 
makes every car follow the tracks 
of the lead truck. The train can 
climb steeper inclines than an auto 
and can, roll smoothly over stumps 
and ditches. Tires on the cars 
range up to ten feet in height. 

An automatic "seek-and-kill" sys- 
tem for submarine torpedoes that 
uses transistors instead of the con- 
ventional vacuum tubes has been 
developed. The new guided tor- 
pedo system eliminates the need for 
a thirty-second warm-up period be- 
fore firing, uses less current and is 
more compact. Developed by West- 
inghouse Laboratories, the torpedo 
guides itself toward the enemy tar- 
get by means of ultrasonic sound 
waves in the water. 

The establishment of the first ci- 
vilian skin bank was announced 
recently. This followed on the heels 
of the development of a new tech- 
nique for grafting the skin from re- 
cently dead bodies as a life-saving 
measure for persons with severe 
and extensive burns. When stored 
at ordinary refrigerator tempera- 
tures these post-mortem grafts can 
be used as long as three weeks after 
removal. The added factor of being 
able to use larger and larger 
patches with success has practically 
eliminated the need for live donors. 

SCIENCE BRIEFS 




Sir: 

Your World's Champion is a 
fraud, if we judge by 1955 stand- 
ards. Looky there, brass knuckles, 
wrist spikes and a bikini boxing 
outfit . . . and not a scar! Meix 
Factor and Pare Westmore should 
live so long ... or do such a cover 
up job. I can only conclude that 
their 2155 equivalents have never 
been near her. I am also forced to 
conclude that this is her first, last 
and only defense of her champion- 
ship, she having originally won it 
by sending in write-in votes on 
Krispy-Krunchy boxtops. She's an 
ad agency promotion discovered by 
a talent scout while sitting on a 
drugstore stool in Cornpone, Ky. 
The annual contest ended last week 
at Atlantic City and oil wells were 
awarded to runners up. Sales of 
Krispy Krunchies have quadrupled. 

The Champion will defend her 
title against a specially designed 



robot made by the Azimov Posi- 
tronic Robot Foundry. She will win 
by a knockout after 40 seconds of 
the 8th round when the robot re- 
sponds to an electronic impulse and 
collapses to the canvas in a welter 
of slipped gears and worn condens- 
ers, she will be awarded a size 24 
champion's belt, which will later 
be displayed on 30 nationally tele- 
vised coast-to-coast spectaculars. 
Her retirement will consist of 10 
weeks at the Palace Theater, a 5 
year recording contract, a short- 
term movie contract and a 29 week 
contract with T.V. awarding the 
mink coats on giveaway programs. 
She will marry a man three times 
her age, cheat him of his longevity 
shots, and buy a planet of the Vega 
system as a gilt-edged investment. 
— Bob Pilkington 
Louisville, Ky. 

Dear Editor: 

I am impressed and intrigued by 
the lack of intelligence in the faces 
on your cover ... I see this as a 
symbol of a time when Man has 
forgotten the basic laws for civil- 
ized existence, a world declining, 
retrogressing, without love and 
with too much leisure; an irreli- 
gious, heartless, deadly, insensible 
world moving backward in terms 
of intelligence and callous far be- 
yond the point of brutality. If we 
make the assumption that a regime 
such as that of the communists has 
overrun the earth, subjugating man 
and bringing intellectual chaos, 
then the cover is more than pos- 
sible. 

— Mervin Chapman 
Key West, Fla. 



117 



The writers of the two preceding 
letters were awarded $5 each for 
their thoughts on our December 
cover. Three other awards went to 
Orma McCormick of Ferndale, 
Mich., John Murphy of Jersey 
City, New Jersey, and J. Frank 
Gamble of Littleton, Colorado . . . 
Comments on the gal with the 
brass knucks were varied and in- 
teresting indeed and we wish we 
had room to run more of them. 

Dear Sir: 

I flatly think that sexy covers are 
the reason that s-f isn't skyrocket- 
ing to greater popularity. When the 
average individual throws his 35c 
on the counter he undoubtedly has 
an urge to hide the covers. You 
have a readable magazine and I 
give science-fiction the credit for 
my choosing Physics as my college 
major. My only complaint is those 
covers. Can't s-f editors be a little 
subtle — the drawings usually 
scream of poor taste. 

— W. G. Cantrell 
Bryan, Texas 

Sirs: 

Interstellar colonization seems to 
be the most hopeful subject for the 
s-f readers of today, yet authors al- 
ways assume that other races will 
be either so far ahead of us that 
they are dead or so far behind us 
that we will have to "civilize" them. 
I agree that the chances of an- 
other exactly at our own level is a 
probability that's astronomical con- 
sidering the differences in time, 
temperature, physiology etc. that 
are involved. Considering the for- 
mer highly civilized group, why 



haven't we met them yet? They 
must have passed through the ex- 
ploratory stage somewhere along 
the line. We've argued the point pro 
and con and come up with several 
proposed explanations. 

1. The supermen are here, but so 
smart we haven't found any 
traces. 

2. Habitable planets are so rare 
they can't find each other. 

3. Interstellar travel is so difficult 
that races are confined to a few 
light-years from their home 
planet. 

4. The extermination theory: the 
cultural level necessary for star 
travel makes race suicide inevi- 
table. 

What I'm after is an answer 
from your readers who I'm sure 
have given it a deal of thought 
themselves. Or at least an esti- 
mated percentage of how many 
numbers of readers believe which 
theory would be of interest to all 
s-f fans. 

Would you let the readers use 
the letter column for a sounding 
board? 

— J. G. Hickman 
Park Forest, 111. 

Delighted! We'll go a step far- 
ther and propound a fifth explana- 
tion: Could it be that we really are 
the first and most highly civilized 
race? 

Dear Editor: 

IF was my ideal, unfortunately 
this state of affairs was not to last. 
"Hue and Cry" has reared its ugly 
head. A trespasser from the pulp 
field. You were original with 



118 



"What's Your Science I.Q.?", 
'^Science Briefs" and "Worth Cit- 
ing", so why retrogress? I'm con- 
vinced that a number of those in 
favor of letter columns are more 
interested in getting their names 
in print than in constructive criti- 
cism. Apart from "Hue and Cry" 
keep it as is — it's great. 

— W. J. Allen 
Calgary, Alberta 

We hate to disagree and don't 
feel that we publish the "pulpy" 
sort of letter. If we can have good 
arguments and slices of interesting 
ideas, we enjoy the stimulation. 
I hereby appoint "Hue and Cry" 
the sounding board for this contro- 
versy, in the hopes that a solution 
will be found. 

Sirs: 

Perhaps someday we can build 
machines that have all the func- 
tions of a human; would these ma- 
chines be competitors of ours? 
Should we scrap all machines now 
lest we become their slaves? I don't 
think so. It may be paradoxical, 
but the more we understand about 
machine thinking, the more we un- 
derstand about human thinking. 
With a greater understanding of 
ourselves, we can ensure that the 
role of the machine is a beneficent 
one. I have a deep conviction that 
a vastly humbled and chastened — 
but improved! — humanity will re- 
sult from the effort to teach a ma- 
chine what Man believes. The 
tough part will be that Man will 
have to find out exactly what he 
believes — and make sense out of it. 
— K. L. Hamilton 
Walton, Mass. 



Wouldn't you like to stick around a 
few thousand years and find out? 
It's a new approach: instead of the 
computers solving the problems — 
they will force man to solve them 
himself. 

Dear Mr. Quinn: 

Although a reader of s-f for 
about 8 years, I've never felt the 
urge to write to an editor before 
now. What did it? Jerry Bixby's 
Laboratory, that's what. The rel- 
atively few attempts at humor in 
s-f have made me glad that they 
were few they have been of such 
low quality. In my opinion Labora- 
tory is far and away the best piece 
of humorous s-f I've read. I also 
enjoyed the other yams. 

— George Thome 
Detroit, Mich. 



NEVER, 
EVER BEFORE, 
ANYWHERE! 

7000 fantasy and science- 
fiction books and back- 
issue magazines at 50% to 
90% under what they've 
cost you before, here or 
anywhere, while they last! 
LIST FREE. 

WEREWOLF BOOKSHOP 

Shannon Rd., R.D. 2, Box 86K 
Verona, Pennsylvonio 



119 



CHROME PASTURES 

(Continued from page 97) 

Gethsemane through the trees. It 
was blood-red in the morning sun- 
light. 

"Ten seconds — " 

There wasn't going to be time 
enough to save Linda from the 
backwash, but there was time 
enough to try — 

"Five seconds — " 

No, not even time enough to try. 

"Two seconds — " 

Brett breasted the hill just as the 
Gethsemane blasted. He reeled 
back, blinded by the jets, deafened 
by their thunder. When the after- 
image faded he saw the brief morn- 
ing star in the sky and he felt the 
first tearing pangs of his loss. 

"How did you know I'd be 
here?" Linda said. 

Brett turned around, not believ- 
ing at first. She had just stepped 
from a sheltering stand of locusts. 
She was crying. 

"I saw you on the telecast," he 
said. "I thought — " 

She shook her head. "You can't 
fight anything by running away 
from it," she said. "One useless 
sacrifice is enough." 

She swayed and Brett leaped for- 
ward and caught her arm. "I'm all 
right," she said. She looked into his 
eyes and seemed surprised at what 
she saw there. "I thought you'd 
hate me," she said. 

"I can't hate you," Brett said. 
"You can't hate someone when 
you already love them." 

She looked up at the sky. "I'll 
get him back," she said. "Somehow, 
some way. Will you help me?" 



"Of course I'll help you." 
They walked down the hill to- 
gether. When they reached the 
highway the Seneca was burning 
brightly. Linda gasped. Brett took 
a slow deep breath. It was the most 
beautiful fire he had ever seen. 

A long time ago Thoreau said: 
"We do not ride the railroad; it 
rides upon us." It remained for the 
wife of an unemployed steelworker 
to paraphrase that statement. In 
her best-selling social novel, The 
Highways of Hell (Brandt & Payne, 
2060), Linda Dalms Brett wrote: 
"We do not drive our cars; our cars 
drive us." 

Civilizations decay from within. 
Sometimes the decay goes unno- 
ticed for years, manifesting itself 
only through reactions of the sub- 
conscious. But it is there, weaken- 
ing the social structure to a point 
where the slightest impetus can 
send that structure toppling. 

The Highways of Hell afforded 
that impetus, and the sacred au- 
tomobile fell from its pedestal. It be- 
came a mere vehicle again, with a 
tyrannical governor that said 30 
mph and meant it. As a mere 
vehicle it could not of course jus- 
tify the stern laws enacted to protect 
it in its former glory, and conse- 
quently those laws were modified. 
This resulted in amnesty for some 
tens of thousands of prisoners serv- 
ing sentences on the Foundation 
planets, among them a man who 
once believed himself to be 
Christ. . . 

— ^Bethe Royale 
MASS MOTIVATIONS 



120 



— confinued from Sack Cover 




St\e«ce-f*'**'"*" ^•"•»'* 8'99est Bargain Offer/ 

« ....^jii"- «*"'""" '•"'• YOU GET »»*»''«'°---r-----Tiiiiiiiii 

^ " VfclKtt MOON-TOUR RESERVATIONS 



Now, for the first time, on this big Sri- 
ence-Firtinn Club offer you get TWO 
Round-Trip Reservations to the Moon FREE 
(see description on other side) — PLUS any 
THREE of the top masterpieres of Scienee- 
Fiction described on this page for only $11 




CHILDREN OF 
WONDER 

21 remarkable and 
fantastic tales about 
some of the most awe-inspir- 
Inff, charmins and monstrous 
children imaginable. (Publ. 
ed. $3.00.) 

ASSIGNMENT IN 
TOMORROW 

Edited by Frederik Pohl — 
The story of the space mon- 
ster who when killed — could con- 
tinue to Hve in an earth man's 
body! Plus ELEVEN other short 
stories, THREE novelettes, and a 
COMPLETE novel. (Publ. ed. 
$3.50.) 



SEND NO MONEY Just Mail Coupon 



Your choice of ANY 3 of the new Science- 
Fiction masterpieces described here^ — AT ONLY 
$1 FOR ALL THREE — Plus TWO FREE 
Round-Trip Reservations To The Moon. (See 
Other Side.) Two books are your gift for join- 
ing, and one is your first Club selection. Every 
month, you will be offered the "cream" of the 
new $2.50 and $3.50 Science-Fiction books — for 
only $1. You take only those books you really 
want— as few as four a year. This offer may 
have to be withdrawn. So mail coupon RIGHT 
NOW to: 

SCIENCE-FICTION BOOK CLUB 
Dept. IF-4, Garden City, N. Y. 



Each is packed with rocket-swift stories that 
takf yiju soaring in time and space . . . writ- 
ten by the greatest science-fiction writers. 
A 110.95 value, full-length, full-size, in 
handsome permanent bindings — and all 
yours for only $1 on this amazing offer! 

THE ASTOUNDING 
SCIENCE-FICTION 
ANTHOLOGY 

A story aliimt the first A- 
ISoml» . . . written before it 
was invcnte<ll Plus a score 
of other l)ost tales from 
Astounding Science-Fic- 
.ioii magazine by edi- 
tor -iohn W. Campbell. 
Jr. (Publ. ed. $3.50.) 

THE TREASURY 
OF SCIENCE-FIC- 
TION CLASSICS 

World-renowned 
stories by II. G. 
Wells. Jules Verne, 
Sir Arthur Cotian 
Doyle. Aldous Hux- 
ley. Philip Wylie. 
Edgar Allan Poe. 
etc. 704 pp. (Publ. 
ed. $2.95.) 

OMNIBUS OF 
SCIENCE-FICTION 

43 top-stories of star- 
tling inventions ... of 
visitors from Outer Space 
. . of Far Traveling . . . 
(Publ. ed. $3.50.) 

THE BEST FROM FANTASY 
AND SCIENCE-FICTION-Brand- 

new 4th Series. The story of the syn- 
thetic man who could do feats no hu- 
man could perform^especially MURDER 
Plus 1] otluT ■•gems." (Pul)l. ed. $3.50.) 



B SCIENCE-FICTION BOOK CLUB 
! Dept. IF-4, Garden City, N. Y. 

Rush 3 books chc<'ked lielow, as my gift hooks and first 
I selection. Hill nic only .ll (plus shipping charge), and en- 
I roll me as a member. Also send FREE the TWO Moon-Trip 

IKeservatiuns. Kvfry month send the Club's free bulletin. 
so that I may decide whether I wish to receive the coming 
I selection. For each book I accept. I will pay only $1 plus 
I shipping. I need take only 4 l)o()ks during each year I am a 

Imember-aiul may resign at any time after accepting 4 
selections. 
I GUARANTEE: If not delighted. T may return all hooks In 
I 7 days, pay nothing and thi.t meinliership will be cancelled. 
I O Assignment in Tomorrow D Children of Wonder 

In Astounding Anthology D Omnibus 

_ D Best from Fantasy &. S-F n Treasury of S-F Classics 



■a 



Xanie_ 



-PLE.^SE PRINT 



Selection price in Tanada $1.10 plus shipping 

Address .Science-Fiction Club. lOr. Bond Street. Toronto : 

(Offfr guud only In U. S. and Canada) 



Now/\n Response to the Overwhelming Demand 



R0UND9RIP 



RESERVATIONS to the 



TWO Bonafide Certificates 

of Your Space-Pioneer Spirit — 

to Share with an Adventurous Friend! 

YES, now for the first time we are 
offering FREE, not one-but TWO 
bonafide Moon-Tour Reservations so 
that you may share this proof of your 
space-pioneer spirit with a friend! 

Each reservation certifies that you are among 
the first to apiily for passage to the moon. 
Neither in atiit wan com in its the holder to 
make the voffaye. They simply sigrnify that 
your name and the fi'iend's name you submit 
are being held on file in Scieneu- Fiction Book 
Club archives to be turned over to the 
first commercial company making trips 
to the moon. 

Your reservations include many amaz- 
ing facts: your actual weight on the 
moon, a Rocket-Ship schedule, etc. Like 
your interest in Science-Fiction books, 
the hard-back, wallet-size certificate | 
wiJI be evi(Jence of your adventUJous 
s])irit . . . your imagination . . . your 
interest in the world of tomorrow. 

Simply choose ANY 3 of the excit- 
ing books described on thi; other 
side — for only $1. Then mail cou- 
pon and Moon-Tour Application at 
once ! 




'^°°'* l?Z''..^33^.f'^'^T,ON 



> >« 10 ert(((i) tUl 



ROCKET 



SHIP 



SCHEDUUE 



»otk«t-SWpjA«^ 



f/l|f 



OF THIS! COMPIETI 
NIW MASTEKPIICIS OF 



SCIENCE-FICTION 



WIIH 
MEMBEHSHIP 



I 1 

ROUND-TRIP MOON-TOUR APPLICATION 



Moon-Tour Reservations, Secretary 
Science-Fiction Book Club 

Please rush me 2 FREE Round-Trip- 
To-The-Moon Reservations. 

My Reservations which will be printed on handy, 
wallet-size cards, will include a Moon weight chart 
and a complete Rocket-Ship Flight Schedule for 
the Moon, Venus. Mars. Jupiter, Saturn. I will in 
no way be committed to make a voyage. 

Please register both reservations in my name. 

IMPORTANT: This Application Will NOT Be 
Honored Unless Filled Out and 
Signed on the Reverse Side. 

SEE OTHER SIDE OF COUPON FOR $7.50 to $10.95 
WORTH OF -SCIENCE-FICTION BESTSELLERS — 

For only $1.00! 



wtmtimni 







mi St/t riW 

fANTASYmd 
SafNCEFKim 






SEE OTHER SIDE FOR 
COMPLETE DETAILS